Self-rule Not On The Table
24 April 2007
New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India had engaged sincerely with Pakistan to improve bilateral relations and resolve all outstanding issues. He was addressing the Third Roundtable Conference on Kashmir Tuesday which was boycotted by APHC and senior Kashmiri leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Shabbir Shah and Yasin Malik declaring it a futile exercise which would not help in resolving Kashmir dispute. The Prime Minister said 'efforts have been made and will continue to work for reconciliation recognising the interdependence of our destinies.' Singh said he had said a year ago in Amritsar that parts of Jammu and Kashmir could, with active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms to maximise the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region. The vision of Jammu and Kashmir was embodied in a broader vision for India and South Asia, which was importantly linked to reconciliation with Pakistan and a harmonious neighbourhood. He said India wants South Asia free from fear of war, want and exploitation. For this purpose, 'it is essential to resolve our differences and overcome the trust deficit that has cast a shadow on our relations. I and our government remain deeply committed to do everything necessary and possible to realise this vision.' He admitted 'there are concerns about human rights violations and undue harassment of people at large' in Occupied Kashmir. India was committed to see that these were minimised. Manmohan Singh said Jammu and Kashmir continue to remain at the top of the government's agenda. There were two dimensions to the problems of the state - one internal and the other external involving Indo-Pak relations. 'It is our intention and sincere desire to advance on both fronts towards resolving problems through a process of dialogue,' he said. The various working groups on Jammu and Kashmir have made several suggestions. The working group on strengthening relations across the Line of Control (LoC), has suggested a series of measures to promote people-to-people contact across LoC, he added. 'The measure suggested need to be implemented after they are agreed with our neighbour Pakistan,' he observed. Self-rule and autonomy were not on the table Tuesday, with the Indian prime minister instead suggesting the discussions focus on ways 'to find pragmatic, practical means of improving the quality of life of the people' of Kashmir. 'But this is an open meeting. Anybody could raise any issue,' an aide to the prime minister said. A political analyst called the meeting a 'feel-good' exercise likely to have little long-term impact. Manmohan pledged to do more to prevent rights violations in Occupied Kashmir, after a day of talks. 'I would like to reiterate that our government is totally committed to upholding the dignity of the individual and the protection of basic human rights in Kashmir,' he said. 'I do admit that there are problems ... But we will continue to take steps to ensure that the deployment of security forces is directly related to the scale of the problems on the ground; that violation of human rights are minimised,' he said.