Vajpayee softens tone over Kashmir

  • AseanPlus News
  • Sunday, 20 Apr 2003

SRINAGAR: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said yesterday there was no issue that cannot be resolved “peacefully and democratically,” on the final day of his two-day tour of troubled Kashmir. 

Vajpayee also said India was committed to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict, continuing the conciliatory theme that saw him on Friday extend a hand of friendship to arch-rival Pakistan and urge Islamabad to join talks on the future of the divided state. 

“I believe – and I would like one and all in Jammu and Kashmir to share this belief – that there is no problem which cannot be resolved peacefully and democratically,” Vajpayee said in this summer capital. 

Vajpayee was addressing a convocation of Kashmir University, the first by an Indian premier since the start of Islamic insurgency in the region in 1989. 

“We have started a process of talks with the elected representatives and other sections of public opinion in the state,” he said. 

“Today, our sincere commitment to bring peace and normalcy to Kashmir makes me admit that we have often faltered in our journey towards this goal,” said Vajpayee. 

“It was sometimes forgotten that democracy is too delicate a plant to be subjected to manipulation and mishandling,” he said, apparently referring to rigged state elections in the region in the past. 

Kashmir experts hold the alleged rigging of 1987 state elections responsible for the eruption of anti-Indian rebellion in the state. 

“We must learn from these mistakes and resolve not to repeat them,” he said. 

He said a “bright ray” was that the people of Kashmir had expressed their will in state assembly elections last September and October. 

“Through the power of democracy, they (Kashmiris) gave a ringing verdict against the militancy and terrorist violence unleashed against us from across the border,” said Vajpayee. – AFP  

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