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It is important know each other's views: M G Vaidya

July 31, 2003 23:05 IST

I understand that I will be part of a 50-member delegation, comprising journalists, MPs and political observers, which will be visiting Pakistan. K K Katyal (a senior journalist with The Hindu) will lead the delegation.

I am going in my capacity as a journalist and not as a functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

At this point of time, I am not aware of the agenda for our visit. However, since the purpose of the visit is to improve relations between the peoples of India and Pakistan, I look forward to it.

There are areas of tension and certain misunderstandings. These have to be sorted out and, in this regard, people-to-people contacts can be a great help.

Unless you know each other's views, it is difficult to make a beginning (towards normalising Indo-Pak relations).

The resumption of the Delhi-Lahore bus service is a good sign. A few weeks ago, a team of MPs from Pakistan was in India and later some Indian MPs visited Pakistan.

If all goes well, the two countries can come up with more such initiatives. It all depends on how successful the existing initiatives are.

What is significant is that there is some kind of a thaw. This in itself is an encouraging sign.

There are hardened positions on both sides. Pakistanis feel that the issue of Kashmir is in their blood, but every Indian knows it is an inalienable and inseparable part of India.

In fact, many Indians want Pakistan-occupied Kashmir returned to us.

We have our priorities clearly defined. We have consistently said that for a conducive atmosphere (for Indo-Pak talks), violence inspired from across the border has to be eliminated.

Their (Pakistan's) argument is that they are extending support for what they say is a freedom struggle. (But) A freedom struggle does not entail butchering innocent babies and women and perpetrating unheard of torture.

India's democracy and religious freedom has been acknowledged and appreciated by the entire world. Here minorities are free to practice their religions and enjoy equal rights, but I am not sure it is the same in Pakistan.

We hope our visit will enrich perspectives in both countries. We would be talking to a cross-section of the Pakistani society, hear them out and explain our viewpoint.

I think Track II diplomacy has its own uses. They show that at least some people on both sides are keen to restore normal relations and increase people-to-people contacts.

I am sure, Pakistan is now aware of the advances India has made in the medical field. The successful heart surgery on the young Pakistani girl (Noor Fatima) in Bangalore should convince sceptics on the other side that friendship with India has more than its share of advantages.

We want to live peacefully with our neighbours, but not at the cost of our honour, our country's unity and territorial integrity.

Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesman M G Vaidya spoke to Tara Shankar Sahay on phone from Nagpur.

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