The following is the text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech at the inauguration of the historic Anantnag-Qazigund rail link in the Kashmir Valley Wednesday:
‘I am delighted to be back in the valley of Kashmir in the lovely season of autumn. We will soon see the beautiful golden hues of the season and the magnificent chinar will soon be flaming red.
I have come today to inaugurate the Qazigund-Anantnag rail link. I congratulate the Indian Railways and the people of Kashmir for this achievement. The day is not far when trains will run from Jammu to Srinagar through the Banihal Pass.
The last time I came to Jammu and Kashmir, the State assembly elections were going to be held. Later, the Lok Sabha elections were also held. I am happy that the people of Jammu and Kashmir turned out to vote in these elections in large numbers. I believe that it was a vote for a peaceful path to a better tomorrow. I applaud the wisdom and good faith of the common man of Kashmir. The elected government has a golden opportunity to consolidate the peace in the State.
In the last five years, the government of India has taken a number of steps to bring development to Jammu and Kashmir. We have tried to revive the traditional connectivity between the people of the region. We took the bold step of reviving the movement of goods and people across the Line of Control on the Srinagar – Muzaffarabad road and on the Poonch – Rawalakot road. I am happy to announce that the central government has decided to fund the additional cost of Rs. 385 crore to build the heritage Mughal Road that will connect Shopian with remote areas of Poonch and Rajouri.
Unprecedented resources have been committed to the State for its comprehensive reconstruction. But I recognize that the benefits are trickling down slowly. This state of affairs should change. We have to speed up the pace of development in the state. We have to reverse the brain drain that has denuded the state of many of its teachers, doctors, engineers and intellectuals. We have to create the conditions for them to return and to be the instruments of change and development. We want to strengthen the hands of the State Govt. so that they can implement an ambitious development agenda.
I would also urge that the time has come for elections to local bodies be held quickly. This will increase the people’s participation in the processes of development.
I appeal to the youth of Kashmir to join in building a new Kashmir. I understand their frustration. But things are changing. I urge them to think constructively about how to build their futures.
The Central Government will make all efforts to involve the youth of the State in constructive work. Under the ‘Skill Development to Employment’ Programme, the Ministry of Tourism will train 300 youths of the State. In addition, 200 youths will be trained and deployed as tourist escorts during the Amarnath and Vaishno Devi Yatras. The Ministry of Labour will train 8000 youths in the ITIs every year.
As part of the national programme the Ministry of Youth Affairs will deploy around 8,000 youth in Jammu and Kashmir on a voluntary basis. They will engage in public service such as cleaning of the Dal lake.
I believe that the IT Sector in JandK can be as developed as in other states of the country. We will fully support the efforts of the State in this area. I am happy that more than 600 youth of the State trained under a Central Government project have been employed in the IT sector recently.
I am happy to announce that the Government of India has decided to set up two Central Universities in JandK, one in Jammu and one in Kashmir.
The majesty and splendour of this beautiful valley and the culture of hospitality of the Kashmiri people are second to none. Its magnificent lakes and forests have charmed travelers for centuries. It offers the solemnity of the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh, the treasures of the Hazratbal shrine and the piety of the Raghunath temple. Let us build Kashmir into one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
The picturesque Dal Lake is the icon of the tourism industry in Kashmir. We have been funding a project for the conservation of the lake but progress has been slow. I would urge the State Government to set up a task force to expedite the project. The Centre has decided to commit additional funds of Rs. 356 cr for this project. We will also discuss with the State Government how to expedite ongoing projects for the conservation of Wullar Lake and Manser Lake.
The Government is concerned about reports of receding glaciers. I am happy to announce the launch of the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system. We wish to preserve the sacred heritage of places like the Amarnath shrine.
The era of violence and terrorism is coming to an end. The public sentiment is for peace and for a peaceful resolution of all problems.
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 today that 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 LoC. 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.
I strongly believe that the majority of people in Pakistan seek good neighbourly and cooperative relations between India and Pakistan. They seek a permanent peace. This is our view as well.
The cross-LoC initiatives have been well received on both sides of the border. But I am also aware that they are not as people friendly as they could be. Trade facilities at the border are inadequate. There are no banking channels. Customs facilities need to be strengthened. There are no trade fairs. The lists of tradable commodities need to be increased. Clearances for travel take time. Prisoners of India and Pakistan are languishing in each other’s jails even after completing their sentences.
The fact is that these are humanitarian issues whose resolution requires the cooperation of Pakistan. We are ready to discuss these and other issues with the government of Pakistan. I hope that as a result things will be made easier for our traders, divided families, prisoners and travellers. For a productive dialogue it is essential that terrorism must be brought under control.
We will press the government of Pakistan to curb the activities of those elements that are engaging in terrorism in India. If they are non-state actors, it is the solemn duty of the government of Pakistan to bring them to book, to destroy their camps and to eliminate their infrastructure. The perpetrators of the acts of terror must pay the heaviest penalty for their barbaric crimes against humanity.
It is a misplaced idea that one can reach a compromise with the ideology of the terrorists or that they can be used for one’s own political purpose. Eventually they turn against you and bring only death and destruction. The real face of the terrorists is clear for the people of Pakistan to see with their own eyes.
I hope that the government of Pakistan will take the ongoing actions against the terrorist groups to their logical conclusion. They should destroy these groups wherever they are operating and for whatever misguided purpose.
I call upon the people and government of Pakistan to show their sincerity and good faith. As I have said many times before, we will not be found wanting in our response. In the words of the poet:
‘There are moments in history when wrong decisions are taken; the effects of which are felt for ages’
I appeal to the Government of Pakistan that the hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward. This is in the interest of people of India and Pakistan.
In conclusion, I wish to convey my good wishes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. I hope that the future will bring a new era of peace, reconciliation and development.’