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Ready to discuss even Kashmir with Pak: PM

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 27, 2010 18:09 IST
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In his first comment on the recent talks with Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said there was "no alternative" to dialogue to resolve issues which "divide us" and that India was ready to discuss all matters, including Kashmir, in an atmosphere free from terror.

Singh said India seeks "peaceful and normal relations" with Pakistan and "in that quest we have consistently sought to engage those in Pakistan who are ready to work with us."

In an interview to Saudi journalists ahead of his visit to Riyadh that began today, he said it was in the common interest of India and Pakistan to cooperate in fighting the menace of terrorism which hurts both.

"There is no change in our position... We should be good neighbours. There is no alternative to dialogue to resolve the issues that divide us," he said.

Singh was responding when asked whether the decision to have Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan reflected a change in India's stand that the stalled peace process can resume only if Islamabad acts against the planners of the Mumbai attack.

To a question on talks with Pakistan, he said, "Today the primary issue is terrorism." Asked how serious was the Pakistan Taliban threat to India, especially to Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said that as a neighbour, India could not remain immune to the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan or on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Extremism and terrorism are major threats not only to India, but also to Pakistan, and all its other neighbours. It is in our collective interest that we resolutely oppose, resist and overcome terrorism and all those who nurture, sustain and give sanctuary to terrorists and extremist elements," Singh said.

Asked how the Kashmir issue be solved once and for all, the prime minister said India was "ready to discuss all issues with them (Pakistan) in an atmosphere free from terrorism."

He noted that Jammu and Kashmir and its people have repeatedly suffered due to terrorism from across the border.

 "This has militated against the will of the people of the state, who have time and again voted in large numbers in democratic elections to unambiguously reject violence," he said.

Singh said the government has taken several measures for the development of Jammu and Kashmir, and for its people to live in peace and harmony, as in the rest of the country.

The government's decision to have foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan after a 14-month break caused by the Mumbai terror strike has come under sharp attack from the Opposition BJP.

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