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|December 3, 1998||
Vajpayee says Indo-Pak talks were useful
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said the secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan last month had yielded positive results.
Replying to supplementaries in the Rajya Sabha, the prime minister said that after the Pokhran nuclear tests, there was greater awareness in Pakistan that all outstanding issues could only be resolved through bilateral negotiations.
He said talks had gone on in spite of the Pakistani firing on the border. "The firing does not mean the talks should not continue... but we are keen that the firing should also cease," he said.
The prime minister said measures had been initiated to promote people-to-people contacts. In this connection, he mentioned the simplification of visa rules for artistes and businessmen. Talks on starting a Delhi-Lahore bus service were nearing completion, he added.
On the proposed power-sharing deal between the two neighbours, Vajpayee said that in the first phase, India could obtain between 400 and 500 MW of electricity from Pakistan.
Later, he said, under an agreement to be signed soon, India could expect up to 2000 MW of power from Pakistan.
He said India has been trying to convince the world against the repeated Pakistani propaganda for internationalising the Kashmir dispute and create conditions for third-party mediation in the matter.
He claimed that most countries now have a better understanding of India's stand on the issue.
Vajpayee said both India and Pakistan are bound by the Simla Agreement which has helped maintain peace in the subcontinent for the last 26 years.
Agreeing with Dr Karan Singh (National Conference) about the situation in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Vajpayee said the government had taken measures to tackle it.
Pranab Mukherjee (Congress) said the Pokhran tests had created conditions for fresh propaganda for third-party mediation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Biplab Dasgupta said there should be an increased exchange of sports and cultural delegations between the two countries. Film star Raj Babbar endorsed this view.
Earlier, in a written reply to a question, the prime minister said India's approach to the dialogue with Pakistan was positive, constructive and sincere. "We will continue our discussions in this spirit."
"In our talks with Pakistan, we have made it clear that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union and that this legal status does not admit of any change," he said.
"It was also emphasised to the Pakistan side that their active instigation and sponsorship of terrorism was incompatible with their declared commitment to developing peaceful and co-operative relations.
"We demanded that Pakistan should forthwith cease these activities and strictly observe its commitments under the Simla Agreement, including full respect for the status quo which was established in relation to Jammu and Kashmir, under the agreement."
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