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Opening Remarks of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Second Roundtable Conference in Srinagar on May 24, 2006

On May 24, 2006 Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh presided over the Second Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar. Presented below is the full text of his opening remarks:

“I am grateful to all of you for coming here to participate in the 2nd Round Table Conference today. Three months ago, we initiated this new series so that we can move together towards building a new Kashmir in Jammu & Kashmir. I know that your coming here today comes from your decision to become part of the process of bringing peace and improvement to this beautiful land. I hope that with our collective efforts, we will certainly be successful in building such a Kashmir.

When we first met in Delhi, many views were expressed. After that, I continued speaking to different groups so that we might acquaint ourselves with every viewpoint and understand every approach. It is indeed a matter of satisfaction that, despite no two views being identical – and this is a reflection of democracy – it became clear that from all sides there was agreement on what I had said in my opening remarks in Delhi. I had said that every resident of Jammu & Kashmir, no matter which region he or she is from, should lead a life of dignity free from oppression, poverty and fear.

I have repeated several times that for the UPA Government, the welfare of Jammu & Kashmir is of top most priority. Putting the tragic memories of the past behind us it is our endeavour that we work together to build a prosperous future for the state.

However, while expressing this wish, I have to say with great sorrow, that there are some elements within the State who do not wish this dream to become a reality. Their inhuman acts have cost many lives, destroyed many families. Who these elements are, we all know well. I know that you all are with me when I say that such activities will only make our resolve even stronger to ensure that every resident of this state is protected from such terrorist acts and atrocities. We are prepared to take every step towards achieving this objective. We condemn such activities and will ensure that such plans fail. All our sympathies are with those families who have been affected by these assaults.

At the same time, we realize that some shameful acts have occurred in the state which have no place in democratic governance. I know that this is a legacy of the violence through which the State has lived. But this does not mean that we will in any way ignore this. The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir has assured the public that full legal action will be taken against those who are responsible for these incidents. He has our full support in this.

As I said at the close of the First Round Table, many different views had been expressed. It was recognized that to resolve political issues, all forms of dialogue should continue. In this connection, the dialogue with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference was positive. They are prepared to take this forward and are ready to prepare specific proposals. I hope that at the appropriate time, they will also join the series of Round Table Conferences so that they can share their views with all of us. In this connection I have held discussions with the leaders of other organizations also, who had earlier kept away from dialogue.

The huge political challenges are, therefore, to be continually addressed. At the same time, the Rs. 27,000 crore reconstruction plans are also moving forward in which specific plans for the development of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh are in place. For this, the funding is largely through central assistance and this year, Rs. 830 crores have been set aside.

There has been progress in the generation of electricity, creation of employment opportunities, expansion of tourism and construction of roads. The long-term vision for Jammu and Kashmir which is being prepared by the Task Force on Jammu and Kashmir under Dr. Rangarajan is ready to submit its report and the recommendations of this report will be included in the 11th Five Year Plan. But there is no room for satisfaction. We have to increase our efforts to generate greater employment opportunities.

To give the public a sense of participation in economic development, we need to improve the connectivity of villages. Through this, distances will be reduced and far-flung areas will have access to modern amenities.

After many years of physical and psychological trauma suffered by the people, it is our duty to ensure the restoration of the health of the common man. Together with efforts to strengthen the medical infrastructure, it has been decided to give the Jammu Medical College the status of an AIIMS. Institutions of public health and education have to be strengthened and increased. This will help the common man address day-to-day problems. What are those problems ? It is necessary for all of us to reflect on this.

Simultaneously, in the light of the changing environment, we are reviewing the cases of all detainees. Included in this is a review of the cases of those crossed over after violating our laws and who are now anxious to come home. Internal security receives our continuing attention. I would also like to mention that security forces are here to protect the people and their stay here is based on this.

It is our effort and desire that there should be prosperity on both sides of the line of control. For this, we wish that those new highways which are opening up between the two areas on both sides should be used not only for travel or tourism but also for trade and commerce.

There are two dimensions to the problems of Jammu & Kashmir. One is the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar and the other is the relationship between Delhi and Islamabad. These two dimensions are of course different but each affects the other. In your exchange of ideas here, I want you to keep this in mind.

There are several institutions in Jammu and Kashmir which can strengthen the foundations of democracy. The State Human Rights Commission, and the Accountability Commission need to be strengthened. Your State Assembly is considering a new Right to Information Act under which an Information Commission can be established. As we are all aware, the result of the last few years of terrorism is that this State, which at one time was a symbol of religious tolerance, has become victim to communal tensions. We need to take steps here which will integrate minorities and make them feel secure.

Friends, I propose that in today’s Round Table Conference, we focus our discussions on the following:

First, what are those political institutions and arrangements which can strengthen the relationship between the state and centre? We can focus on, among others, security of the people, human rights and good governance.

Second, how can the different regions in this state, while recognizing their distinct identities, be brought closer to each other?

Third, what is the economic future of the state?

Fourth, what are those steps that are needed to restore public self-confidence. Each region of Jammu and Kashmir has a distinct identity. How can these be strengthened so that they can blossom? How can we harmonise relations between them?

And finally, what are those institutional arrangements which can bring people from both sides of the LoC closer to each other?

In my view, the series of Round Table Conferences is not only important for Jammu and Kashmir but for the whole of India. During your discussions, I request that you may remember that it is not only the eyes of the people of this state that are on you but those of the whole world.

Let us work together and take steps towards peace and prosperity.

I look forward to hearing your views over the next two days.

Thank you.”

Source: Press Information Bureau





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