Opening Remarks of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Third Roundtable Conference in New Delhi on April 24, 2007
On April 24, 2007, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh presided over the Third Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi. Presented below is the full text of his opening remarks:
"I thank all of you for coming here today to participate in the third meeting of the Roundtable on Jammu & Kashmir. We began this process slightly over a year ago. We have met twice before in this format, once in New Delhi and once in Srinagar. This series of conferences is part of our collective effort to find consensual solutions to the problems of Jammu & Kashmir through a process of dialogue.
On both occasions, we reaffirmed that violence had no place in a civilized society and that we should engage with a wide cross-section of political groups and civil society to forge a consensus on specific issues which affect the lives of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. We also realized that the process was not easy and would be a long one, requiring patience and fortitude.
It is almost a year since we last met in Srinagar. However, a lot of work has been done since then. At the outset, I would like to reaffirm that Jammu & Kashmir continues to remain at the top of our government’s agenda. While I have visited the Jammu & Kashmir several times and wide ranging initiatives are already being implemented to revitalize the economy of the State and to bring about improvements on many fronts, we need to continue to work closely together to further carry forward our efforts to build a new, peaceful and prosperous Jammu & Kashmir. I repeat the simple vision which guides me and which I have articulated to university students in Srinagar. It is a vision of a Naya Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh which is symbolized by peace, prosperity and people’s power. Jammu and Kashmir has tremendous economic potential, the talent of its people is unparalleled, and its cultural diversity is unique. It can and must become a model of real empowerment of the people and comprehensive security for them. If this happens, Jammu and Kashmir will be an epitome of unity, peace and prosperity in diversity. The vision for Jammu and Kashmir is embodied in a broader vision for India and South Asia. A harmonious neighbourhood and a reconciliation with Pakistan are important to realize the vision of an India and South Asia free from the fear of war, want and exploitation. For this 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 realize this vision.
Your invaluable collective response that all of us work together to build a peaceful and prosperous Jammu and Kashmir provided the essential basis of the highly productive two-day discussions which took place at the 2nd meeting of the Roundtable which was held in Srinagar. There was a shared view that while the Roundtable process has various advantages, there was a need to establish a mechanism under which smaller groups of participants could focus on identified issues and evolve agreed approaches and solutions, forging a consensus among diverse views.
Based on your collective desire to establish a credible mechanism to carry the Roundtable dialogue process forward, we had agreed that the best way to move ahead, and to ensure that the views of different segments were incorporated in the dialogue process, would be to establish Working Groups consisting of members from amongst those present or those nominated by the various parties and other segments of society. On this broad understanding, we had agreed to establish five Working Groups, each focusing on a specific theme.
I am indeed very happy that as a result of the sincere and serious interest taken by you and your representatives, the first four Groups have put in strenuous efforts to finalise their reports. I have been told that these four reports, along with brief summaries thereof, have been placed in your hands. It is also very gratifying that the fifth Working Group, which is examining issues relating to strengthening Centre-State relations, has also since commenced functioning and has already had three meetings.
I take this opportunity to convey my profound thanks to the members of the first four Working Groups for finalizing their reports which reflect their sincere effort to forge consensus and evolve agreed approaches towards the resolution of varied important issues. I convey my thanks to Shri Mohd Hamid Ansari, Shri MK Rasgotra, Dr C Rangarajan and Dr NC Saxena, the Chairpersons of the Working Groups I to IV respectively, for sparing time to contribute to this historic task of building a new Jammu & Kashmir. I am also grateful to Justice Sagir Ahmed for taking forward the discussion on the crucial issues being considered by the fifth Working Group.
The themes covered by the Working Groups whose reports are to be discussed today have great relevance to the lives of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The Working Group on Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society has made a number of recommendations on improving the conditions of victims of militancy. These include strengthening human rights protection, improving relief and rehabilitation for all segments of people including Kashmiri Pandits, and preserving the rich, diverse cultural landscape of the state.
The Working Group on Strengthening Relations across the LoC has suggested a series of measures to promote people-to-people contact across the LoC. These, in my view, are extremely relevant if we have to move towards the goal of making borders and lines irrelevant and just lines on a map. Of course, the measures suggested need to be implemented after they are agreed to with our neighbour Pakistan.
This brings us to an important point. The work of these two Working Groups bring out the dual nature of the issues we are trying to tackle. There are two dimensions to the problems of Jammu & Kashmir. One is an internal one and the other, an external one, involving Indo-Pakistan relations. It is our intention and sincere desire to advance on both fronts towards resolving the problems through a process of dialogue. The Working Groups and this Roundtable process are part of our effort to find pragmatic, practical means of improving the quality of life of the people so that they lead a life of self-respect and dignity.
At the same time, I am conscious that there are difficulties. There are acts of terrorism which derail our efforts towards restoring normalcy. There are concerns about human rights violations and undue harassment of people at large. We are committed to seeing that these are minimized. While recognizing the important role being played by security forces in maintaining peace in the state and providing a sense of security to the common man, every possible action would be taken to see that the deployment of security forces is directly related to the scale of the problems on the ground which they are required to tackle. Terrorism has left deep scars on the minds of the people and it is our effort to apply a soothing balm on these scars and make a new beginning.
On the external front vis-à-vis Pakistan, we have engaged sincerely with Pakistan to improve our relations and resolve all pending issues. Efforts have been made and will continue to be made to work for a reconciliation recognizing the interdependence of our destinies. However, these efforts will not be fruitful unless a peaceful environment is created through honouring of commitments made, in letter and spirit, to curb terrorist activities. I had said a year ago in Amritsar that the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir can, with the active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms so as to maximize the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region.
I believe that the work of the 2nd Working Group can take us forward in this direction. The Confidence Building Measures across the LoC that have been initiated and the many more which have been suggested in the Working Group report will promote a free flow of ideas, people and goods. And this will be for the benefit of one and all.
The Working Group on the Economic Development of the State has given wide ranging proposals for the rapid economic development of the state and making it more financially stable. I reiterate our commitment to the sustained economic development of Jammu & Kashmir and to making it one of the front ranking states of the country. Given the immense potential of the region, this is certainly possible. I am sure that the Planning Commission and the Ministries of the Government of India will discuss these with the State Government to operationalise as many of these as possible in a time bound manner.
The 4th Working Group on Good Governance has raised issues which are extremely relevant in the context of empowering a common citizen of the state and making the government more accountable. I am sure this Roundtable will reflect on some of these suggestions.
What we discuss in the Roundtable today is of immense interest not only to the people of Jammu & Kashmir but to the entire nation. We are committed to a constructive dialogue and are confident that it is the best way to resolve problems. I am impressed by the representative character of all the people taking part in this Roundtable. There are others who have decided not to join the dialogue. I hope they too join this process and contribute to the resolution of issues which affect the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
The entire nation wants the state to do well. We all wish that the people of the state live peaceful, secure lives looking forward hopefully to a future of prosperity and dignity. The Roundtables so far have contributed to taking our dialogue forward. We have reached a stage where tangible measures are now being suggested as a result of this dialogue.
While welcoming each one of you here, I would like you to express your opinion on these reports and also any suggestions on the next steps forward."