The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM is willin' but with twin terms
- No to change in J&K map

Srinagar, Nov. 17: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that India would not countenance any proposal about Kashmir that either entailed redrawing of the international boundaries or further dividing India on the basis of religion.

'Within these two constraints' India was willing to discuss any proposal, the Prime Minister said. He rejected the suggestion that India wanted the Line of Control (LoC) as the border between India and Pakistan, saying that it was a hypothetical issue. The Prime Minister was addressing a news conference at the end of his visit to Srinagar.

He said that while New Delhi was offering unconditional talks to all Kashmiri groups but equally it would not accept any pre-conditions from them. He was responding to a question about whether the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders would be allowed to visit Pakistan as a condition for restarting the dialogue with New Delhi.

The Prime Minister argued: 'In this day and age of satellite phones and Internet, people can contact each other easily.' He also took a dig at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi saying that whenever any dignitaries arrived from across the border, it always facilitated their meeting with the Kashmir leaders.

However, even then, he said: 'In principle, I keep an open mind (about Hurriyat leaders visiting Pakistan). Anyone can meet whomever they want as Indian citizens. But they can't put this as a pre-condition (for talks).'

He denied the suggestion that the coming in of the United Progressive Front government had been a setback for the dialogue with the Hurriyat. He claimed that the process had not been derailed and that it was too early to judge the new government on the issue of a dialogue with the Hurriyat. 'We have not even completed six months,' he argued.

However, he said that in this short period of time, his government had taken many vital decisions. 'And one such decision is that we are willing to talk to anyone who has a point of view (on Kashmir),' he said. Arguing that there was already an elected government in the state that had come to power through 'free and fair elections', the Prime Minister said: 'But we also recognise that there are people outside the political system and we are willing to talk to them.'

The Prime Minister, however, claimed that all the legitimate grievances of the Kashmiri people 'can be taken into account in our democratic framework'. This is different from some ministers in Singh's government having confused the inclusiveness of the democratic framework with the rigidities of the 'four corners of the Constitution'.

The Prime Minister rejected out of hand a suggestion that the Kashmir issue could not be resolved 'in our lifetime'. He argued for optimism instead, saying, 'I am not pessimistic (about a solution). I am hopeful (that there will be a solution). We have lived in times where things that did not seem possible or acceptable have become the norm. Who would have thought that the Berlin Wall would melt (away) or that the two Germanys would unite' But it happened. So I am hopeful.'

The Prime Minister was also categorical in claiming that India and Pakistan were not working to a 'US roadmap on Kashmir'. He said that as far as India was concerned, it had entered into a dialogue with Pakistan because it believed that the two countries have an obligation to resolve all their differences through 'a purposeful and peaceful dialogue'.

Singh rejected a suggestion that the Kashmir issue was 'a major obstacle to India getting a membership of the UN Security Council'. During his various visits abroad and in his interactions with foreign dignitaries visiting India, the Prime Minister said, 'Nobody has told me that Kashmir was an obstacle to India being in the UN Security Council.' Instead, he argued that India deserved a permanent membership of the Security Council by virtue of its role in the world economy.

In response to question which suggested that India should take a re-look at the Indus Water Treaty as it was seen to be 'unfair' to Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said his government was not about to re-open the treaty. 'The Indus Water Treaty is an international treaty and we are under obligation to honour it,' he said.

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