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Fence to keep out terrorists, not settle Kashmir issue: Vajpayee

January 02, 2004 14:38 IST

The fence that India is constructing along the Line of Control is an "operational requirement" to stop infiltration of terrorists, according to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who will leave for Islamabad on Saturday to attend the four-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

"There is no question of India trying to settle the issue of Jammu and Kashmir by building a fence along the Line of Control," he said in an interview to Pakistani daily Dawn, which was published on Friday.

Regarding Pakistani assertions that the fence violates the bilateral accords between the two countries, Vajpayee said, "As you know India does not recognise the LoC as an international boundary. As the name implies, it is a line up to which our two countries exercise actual control on our respective sides. It was delineated by a bilateral agreement in Dec 1972."

He said the fence has the same objective as the recent ceasefire between the two countries, which is to stop infiltration of terrorists.

He rejected Pakistan's stand that bilateral issues could be raised at the SAARC summit. "Whenever a regional organisation is formed, it is to exploit the synergies and complimentary strengths of its member states. This can create collective entity more than the sum of individual companies."

Regional groupings that deal with bilateral issues dilute their collective strength, he said. "Successful regional groups like the European Union and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] have wisely followed the dictum that you should focus on issues that unite rather than let bilateral differences dominate your agenda. This is wisdom enshrined in SAARC charter and I think it is fundamental to SAARC's successful functioning," he said.

Vajpayee reacted cautiously to building a $3 billion Iran-India gas pipeline, which is proposed to come via Pakistan. "The gas pipeline you have mentioned cannot be considered in isolation from the overall context of economic and commercial cooperation between India and Pakistan," he said.

The PM also spoke of huge Indian investments in exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources in countries as varied as Russia, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Vietnam as well as in several places in India itself.

At the same time, Vajpayee agreed that in view of the present growth rate of the Indian economy and its current development plans, India has a very huge need for additional energy resources.

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