The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM preens over Pak peace
- From raining bombs to playing cricket: Atal pats himself on success of initiative

Amritsar, March 26: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said he hoped peace with Pakistan would be permanent.

“There is no alternative for neighbours but to co-exist peacefully. The friendship will last and peace will be permanent,” Vajpayee told an impressive gathering at the picturesque Gol Bagh in the centre of this historic city.

Vajpayee began by stating that he had not come to address an election rally, but to welcome deputy Lal Krishna Advani on the completion of the first leg of his Bharat Uday yatra. “It has been a gruelling journey. But when the BJP has a message to send across, the party always resorts to yatras as it is the best way to reach out to the people,” he said.

Striking a chord with the people of the border district who have faced problems whenever war clouds have gathered, Vajpayee said there was no pressure on India to seek peace with Pakistan. “The initiative came from both sides. It was not one-sided.”

Vajpayee said he did not lose hope when the Lahore talks fell through. “I called Musharraf to Agra and the talks fell through again. It was not the end. Talks must be held to solve differences. There may be failures, but a dialogue must always go on. It was raining bombs, but we are playing cricket now. I hope war clouds never form again.

“There is no other option but to solve all problems through talks. If you (Pakistan) make claims on Kashmir, even then we have no other way but to hold talks,” he added.

Pakistan warmly appreciated the statement, saying it was based on “realism” and “statesmanship”.

Sounding upbeat over the peace initiatives, Vajpayee said the NDA government believes in taking everyone together towards realising the dream of a strong and resilient India. “Sab ke saath nyay (Justice for everyone),” he promised.

Lashing out at the Congress for contesting elections only to grab power, the Prime Minister said the coming polls were the most significant to be held in the country and would “change the face of the country”.

Criticising the Congress for its last minute attempts to cobble alliances in its bid for power, Vajpayee sought the people’s support for another term to realise the vision of turning India into a developed nation by 2020.

“The Congress has not built governments by entering into alliances. They have only toppled them. Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, I.K. Gujral, Deve Gowda, Chandra Shekhar, the list is long,” he said.

Vajpayee called for a second green revolution and efforts to provide a conducive atmosphere for the growth of small-scale industries. “I have reports of another good harvest. India is beginning to shine. We believe we will win the polls, but everything is in the hands of the people.”

Earlier, Advani said his yatra was akin to those of Adi Sankaracharya and Guru Nanak. “The yatras I have undertaken in the country should not be seen in isolation. In this country, yatras have been undertaken to spread a message like the ones of Sankaracharya and Nanak.”

He said the government’s “India shining” slogan was being misinterpreted by the Opposition. “We have never said India is shining. We are merely saying that India has begun shining.”

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