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JAMMU & KASHMIR

Time to heal Kashmiris’ wounds: Manmohan Singh

Monday 15 November 2004, by NAGESH KUMAR*S.

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Anu Pushkarna
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and other leaders at Shantivan in New Delhi on Sunday at a function to mark the 115th birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

HYDERABAD, NOV. 14. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today said the people of Jammu and Kashmir had suffered a great deal due to militancy during the past decade and a half and that it was time to heal their wounds.

During his coming visit to the State, Dr. Singh said, he would appeal to the hearts and minds of the people there to usher in a new chapter of hope and peace in the Valley. "I am going there with [a] lot of hope of putting behind all the violence and starting a new chapter of peace," he told newspersons here. The Prime Minister said the troop reduction in the State was an experiment that his Government wanted to try. There were strong reasons to justify this decision.

For one, the level of infiltration had come down due to the efforts of the security forces. "We will review the decision if the level of terrorism increases. We have taken a risk but it is not an unacceptable risk," he said.

Disagreeing with the suggestion that India and Pakistan were taking forward the peace process under pressure from the United States, Dr. Singh said there was no scope for third party intervention in the dispute between the two countries. They would settle it bilaterally.

"Both India and Pakistan are capable of dealing with these issues bilaterally. The composite dialogue is making progress. We are committed to finding a credible, lasting and mutually satisfactory solution to all outstanding issues," he added.

Dr. Singh said the Government had taken the initiative to improve relations with the United States and Pakistan while the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the Pakistan Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, would be visiting the country in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, time was wasted as Parliament was not allowed to function.

"I sincerely hope the Opposition will allow the Houses to function from now," he added.

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