Jammu : In a fresh peace overture to Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday called for a “historic reconciliation of hearts and minds in our region” while urging that the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir should become a “line of peace”.
If the LoC got transformed thus, then the land and water resources of the divided Jammu and Kashmir state could be by used by people on both sides of the barrier, the prime minister said at Jammu University after being presented an honorary doctorate of letters (D. Litt).
But all this would be possible only and when violence and terror stalking the region since 1989 and which has claimed thousands of lives ended, Manmohan Singh said in his speech.
“It is time to make a genuine effort to build peace and create the conditions for a historic reconciliation of hearts and minds in our region,” he said, in an obvious reference to the bitter memories of the 1947 creation of Pakistan and India that led to the dragging Kashmir dispute.
“I believe young people, without any bitter memories, and full of hope and energy, are the ones who can lead the change,” he added.
Reiterating his favourite theme, the Indian leader said the LoC, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, could be transformed into a “line of peace” and stressed that he wanted people of Kashmir to be “free from all fears about their future”.
“Jammu and Kashmir can one day become a symbol of India-Pakistan cooperation rather than of conflict… Borders cannot be changed, but they can be made irrelevant… The LoC can become a line of peace with a freer flow of ideas, goods, services and people,” he said, addressing academicians and students.
“The natural resources of the state could then be used for the benefit of the people. They need no longer be points of contention or a source of conflict. We could for instance use the land and water resources of the region jointly for the benefit of all the people living on both sides of the LoC,” Manmohan Singh said.
He added that there were “vast opportunities to jointly work together for the mutual benefit” of the people of both countries.
But he warned: “It goes without saying that this can only happen once terrorism and violence end permanently.”
Reiterating his personal commitment to bettering the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, he said that real empowerment was not about slogans.
“Security is freedom from fear and this is what we wish to achieve. We would like the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be from all fears about their future.It is only this sense of comprehensive security, within a framework of good governance that can really empower the people.”
He also urged the Kashmiri youth to transform the state into a “robust and vibrant knowledge economy”.
The prime minister said the round table conferences his government was holding with political parties of Jammu and Kashmir had emerged as an “effective platform for addressing all the concerns of the people in the region”.
Without naming the Hurriyat, he said he felt “sorry” for those who had not joined the round table conference. He hoped they would “recognise the historic significance and the transparent sincerity of the roundtable process” and join it in future.
The central government has convened three round table meetings to discuss a solution to the problems of Kashmir.
Manmohan Singh promised that the aspirations of all sections of people in each of the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh must be taken into account and a common understanding reached for a comprehensive solution to the region’s problems.
Pointing out that Jammu and Kashmir was the finest expression of the idea of unity in diversity, Manmohan Singh urged the people to “revive” those bonds and “the spirit of accommodation and mutual respect”.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha, who is also the university chancellor, conferred the doctorate degree on Manmohan Singh – the first from an Indian university after he became prime minister in May 2004.
Earlier, the prime minister laid the foundation at Jagti in the suburbs of Jammu. Kashmiri Pandits have been living largely in the area since they fled the Kashmir Valley after a separatist campaign began there in 1989.
Over 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been putting up in tented colonies and one-room tenements. The prime minister had promised a township for them, with better civic amenities, during his first visit to Jammu in November 2004.