India extends ‘hand of friendship’ to Pakistan with curb terror rider


Anantnag (Jammu and Kashmir) : Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday reached out to Pakistan, saying “the hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward”, but declared that Islamabad had to turn off the terror tap if there was to be forward movement.

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Calling on Pakistan to show “sincerity and good faith”, the prime minister said India would not be found wanting in response as this was in the interests of the people of both countries.

“I call upon the people and government of Pakistan to show their sincerity and good faith. As I have said many times before, we will not be found wanting in our response,” Manmohan Singh said addressing a mammoth gathering in Anantnag before flagging off a long-promised train service linking the south and north of the Kashmir Valley.

“I appeal to the government of Pakistan that the hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward. This is in the interest of people of India and Pakistan.

The ‘hand of friendship’ gesture was the second time that an Indian prime minister was extending to Pakistan. It was former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous ‘hand of friendship’ speech in Srinagar at a public rally in April 2003 that led to his historic visit there in January 2004.

But Manmohan Singh cautioned that Pakistan needed to curb terrorism directed at India.

“For a productive dialogue it is essential that terrorism must be brought under control,” he said, speaking in Urdu, while reading out from a prepared statement.

“I strongly believe that the majority of the people in Pakistan seek good neighbourly and cooperative relations between India and Pakistan. They seek a permanent peace. This is our view as well,” he said.

Manmohan Singh’s comments comes amid persisting strains in their relationship over what New Delhi says is Islamabad’s unwillingness to bring to book extremist leaders who masterminded the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 and those who conspired in it.

In a speech that touched upon several issues, including development of the state, declining violence levels and an appeal to the Kashmiri youth to build a new Kashmir, Manmohan Singh said he was keen to carry all sections of the people in resolving the political and economic problems of the state.

There was a tinge of regret in his speech, when he felt that “durable and final peace” was achievable in the state during the period 2004-07 but lamented that terror acts put paid to those hopes.

Without referring to former president Pervez Musharraf, who was in power then, Manmohan Singh said: “We had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline. Intensive discussions were held on all issues including on a permanent resolution of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. ” ”

“For the first time in 60 years, people were able to travel by road across the Line of Control (LoC). Divided families were re-united at the border. Trade between the two sides of Kashmir began,” he said.

“However, all the progress that we achieved has been repeatedly thwarted by acts of terrorism. The terrorists want permanent enmity to prevail between the two countries. The terrorists have misused the name of a peaceful and benevolent religion,” he said.

Manmohan Singh hoped the Pakistan government would take the “ongoing actions” against terrorist groups “to their logical conclusion” especially if it wanted better people to people contacts and for trade and commerce to improve between both countries.

He exhorted Pakistan to destroy these terror groups and the places they were operating from.

“If they are non-state actors, it is the solemn duty of the government of Pakistan to bring them to book, to destroy their camps and to eliminate their infrastructure. The perpetrators of the acts of terror must pay the heaviest penalty for their barbaric crimes against humanity.”

At the same time he said India was ready to dis”uss “humanitarian and other issues” with the Pakistani government.

“I call upon the people and government of Pakistan to show their sincerity and good faith. As I have said many times before, we will not be found wanting in our response,” he said.

The prime minister said his government was committed to having unconditional dialogue with whoever abjured violence.”

“We had discussions with different groups (in Jammu and Kashmir). We had a number of round table conferences. All issues were discussed. We tried to give voice to the demands of all sections of the people.”

“I wish to say again today that we are willing to talk to anyone who has any meaningful ideas for promoting peace and development in Kashmir. We want to carry all sections of the people with us in resolving the political and economic problems of Jammu and Kashmir.