Manmohan Singh: At long last, there is real hope of peace between India and Pakistan

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The Independent Online

When I came to office in 2004, I had said that our government is committed to having unconditional dialogue with whoever abjures violence. We had discussions with different groups. 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. We have implemented a number of initiatives as a result of this process.

I wish to say again: 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.

I had also said that I was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. I did so not because of weakness but from a position of strength. 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. Divided families were re-united at the border. Trade between the two sides of Kashmir began. In fact, our overall trade with Pakistan increased three times during 2004-07. The number of visas that we issued to Pakistanis doubled during the same period. An additional rail link was re-established.

These are not small achievements given the history of our troubled relationship with Pakistan. Inside the valley, as militancy declined, trade, business and tourism began to pick up. We were moving in the right direction. For the first time there was a feeling among the people that a durable and final peace was around the corner.

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. Their philosophy of hate has no place here. It is totally contrary to our centuries old tradition of tolerance and harmony among faiths.

Taken from the Indian Prime Minister's speech to mark the opening of the Anantnag-Qazigund rail link on Wednesday

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