J&K an integral part of India: Sonia
27 June 2001
The Hindustan Times
New York: ASSERTING THAT Kashmir was an integral part of India, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism and "vigorously" curb forces of religious fundamentalism and obscurantism. Jammu and Kashmir, including Ladakh, is "inextricably woven" into the fabric of India's pluralistic heritage and Indian Constitution has 'sufficient in-built flexibility to accommodate the legitimate democratic aspirations of Indians living in the valley," she told a joint meeting of the Asia Society and the Council of Foreign Relations yesterday. Conceding that there was no easy solution to the Kashmir issue, she asserted that India would not "countenance another partition based on religion". She pointed out that elections in Jammu and Kashmir were due next year, and urged Pakistan to take measures to restore democratic institutions and norms in the parts of the state that was under its "illegal occupation". Expressing support for the upcoming summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, she said India was committed to "meaningful negotiations" with Islamabad to resolve all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. "We must have demonstrable, verifiable and enforceable confidence-building measures to avert the risk of a nuclear and missile conflict," Sonia said and asked Pakistan to stop terrorism. The elections in Kashmir, she told the meeting, "offers an opportunity of demonstrating the extraordinary resilience of the Indian democracy and its capacity for transforming yesterday's agitators to today's rulers." On Sino-India relations, she said continuous transfer of missile and nuclear technology from China to Pakistan was the "greatest worry to us". Stressing on the need to curb religious fundamentalism, she said, India had serious concerns about what was happening in Afghanistan and its damaging effect on the subcontinent. "The UN has a vital role to play in bringing Afghanistan back into the international mainstream," she said.