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"I have come with a message of peace"

Sunday 17 April 2005, by KHARE*Harish

We cannot rewrite the past, but we can build a more secure future: Manmohan

- Musharrafspeak: God willing, whatever happens, it will be good

- We may be too old to tango, but my hand is extended to clap

- At Agra, there was tension and acrimony, now there is harmony and cordiality

- We are not for scoring points

- We must seize this opportunity to address all issues

NEW DELHI: Calling for a display of "courage and flexibility" on the part of the leadership in India and Pakistan to bring about "a permanent resolution of all disputes, including Kashmir," the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, extended his "hand" to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

Responding to Dr. Singh’s call for enduring solutions to all problems between India and Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani leader told a distinguished gathering at the Ashoka Hotel: "It needs two hands to clap. They say it takes two to tango, we may be too old to tango, but my hand is extended to clap."

Earlier in the day, he landed in Jaipur en route to Ajmer to visit the dargah of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. "We have come here with a message of peace and unity... We have prayed that in times to come, all differences between India and Pakistan are resolved and peace returns," he told presspersons there.

The evening at the Prime Minister’s dinner for the visiting President on the first day itself saw the two leaders setting a positive tone for their crucial talks. As the General arrived for talks with the Indian leaders, he seemed too conscious of the "failed" summit at Agra.

Handsome applause

The General drew a contrast with the "diametrically different" environment now and then. "At Agra, there was tension and acrimony, now there is harmony and cordiality." And he drew a handsome applause when he pointed that the two countries took the same stand at "the terrorist attack that took place" at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar on the eve of the inaugural run of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus.

Earlier the Prime Minister, in his welcome remarks, had invited the General to walk the peace road. He said: "The peace process and the composite dialogue need to be carried forward with even greater determination. However, in order to take forward and sustain the dialogue process, acts of terrorism must be prevented and we must together fight the scourge of terrorism in our region."

The Prime Minister went on: "We cannot rewrite the past, but we can build a more secure future... we must find practical ways and means to resolve all outstanding issues between us in a reasonable, pragmatic manner, cognisant of ground realities."

In his mostly extempore reply, Gen. Musharraf stressed that "the [peace] process, it appears, is irreversible." He pointed out that earlier attempts at peace - at Tashkent, Shimla, and Lahore - failed because there was no attempt to produce lasting harmony because contentious issues were swept "under the carpet."

Gen. Musharraf exhorted that "environment change with time, leaders change with time, and they produce a new dynamism." He suggested "there cannot be a guarantee of sustained peace" unless there was "substantive dialogue on all issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute." In his view, there was so much to be gained from peace in the areas of trade, sports, culture, tourism, etc. "It is a win-win situation for both India and Pakistan" and that the time was ripe for "a permanent resolution of all issues."

`History beckons’

Earlier in his welcome speech, Dr. Singh said that India, Pakistan, and especially the people of Jammu and Kashmir had paid a heavy price in terms of peace and development because of the persistent conflict of the past half century.

"The political leadership in both our countries has a solemn obligation to work in concert to realise this vision [of a prosperous South Asia]. History beckons us to rise to the challenge and grasp the opportunities to create boundless prosperity in our ancient land. If we fail to grasp these opportunities, our people will not excuse us for the economy of our vision and courage," the Prime Minister added. Most of the Indian officials found the General’s remarks "positive" .

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