Be it with Pakistan, Kashmiri separatists or Naxalites
On the 64th Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent out a positive message that he wanted to resolve issues through dialogue, be it with Pakistan, Kashmiri separatists, northeast groups or Naxalites. “India's democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country,” he said addressing the nation from the historic Red Fort here on Sunday.
Touching upon a range of issues, including high inflation and slow rate of growth in the farm sector, Dr. Singh talked of a “new India” in which every citizen would have a stake. But “harsh and unpleasant words in our political discourse” were against the tradition of tolerance. “There should be capacity to reconcile opposite points of view through debate and discussion.”
Peace with neighbours
The Prime Minister made it clear that India wanted peace and harmony with neighbours but emphasised that progress in dialogue with Islamabad would not go far if Pakistan continued to allow its territory to be used for acts of terrorism against India.Reiterating that Kashmir was an integral part of India, Dr. Singh said the government was ready for talks with every person or group which abjured violence. “Kashmir is an integral part of India. Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and their welfare.”
He regretted the recent loss of lives in violent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and said “the years of violence should now end.”
“A serious challenge”
Describing Naxalism as a “serious challenge” to internal security, Dr. Singh appealed to Naxalites to abjure violence, come for talks with the government and join hands with it to accelerate social and economic development.
Stressing the government's commitment to protect the lives of citizens and deal firmly with those who resorted to violence, he said, “We will provide all possible help to the State governments to maintain the rule of law in areas affected by Naxalism. We need to rise above our personal political interests to meet this challenge.”
Stake for tribals
Pointing out that the administrative machinery needed to be sensitive in the Naxalite-affected areas, he said the Planning Commission had been asked to formulate a comprehensive scheme to end the neglect of tribals and make them join the mainstream of development. Apart from payment of adequate compensation for land acquired from tribals, it should be ensured that they had a stake in the development projects being undertaken.
Dr. Singh conveyed to all political parties and groups of the northeast that disputes in the name of a State or tribe could harm everyone. Discussion and dialogue were the only options to resolve complex issues.
Turning to the issue of high inflation, he said the government was making every possible effort to tackle it. It was forced to increase the price of petroleum products as subsidy was increasing annually and this would have affected programmes for education, health and employment of the poor.
Despite last year's drought, India's economic growth rate had improved. The agricultural growth rate, however, needed to be around four per cent, and it should be achieved through technological breakthrough in dry land farming and by addressing the challenges of climate change impact, falling water table and deteriorating soil. This was required to meet the ambition of providing a food security net for people.
Dr. Singh announced the setting up of the Norman Borlaug Institute of South Asia that would facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and offer new technology to farmers.
Putting his weight behind the Commonwealth Games to be held here in October, the Prime Minister said the event would be a proud moment for the country and another signal to the world that India was rapidly marching ahead.