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|February 20, 1999||
Visit all for the good, says a cross-section of Indians
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan would help the two neighbours work towards constructive bilateral ties, a cross section of Indians from various walks of life said today.
"We hope the visit will lead to more and more social, civic and cultural exchanges between the two countries, which share many common things in culture," said thespian Dilip Kumar when asked his reaction to the visit on national television.
"If we continue to make forward movements like this, the people of the two countries can share much happier days," said noted writer Kartar Singh Duggal.
Union Home Minister L K Advani said the whole country wished Vajpayee good luck on his mission.
"I was born in Karachi and was educated there," he said with a tinge of nostalgia and recalled his two-day visit to Pakistan in 1978-79.
Film star and Congress leader Sunil Dutt described the visit as a "new beginning of friendship". Noted film producer, director and lyricist Gulzar said, "Pakistan mera watan hai, Hindustan mera mulk hai (Pakistan is my motherland, and India is my country). These small steps are actually very big strides," he said.
Director Mahesh Bhatt described it as "homecoming" and "rejuvenation" when asked to give a specific term to the visit.
"They (the Pakistanis) are so much like us. We always believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel," Bhatt said. .
Welcoming the visit, former foreign secretary J N Dixit, however, said, "The tunnel is a bit too long. We should not have very high expectations."
Dixit said, "We cannot expect resolution of the Kashmir and Siachen issues in two days. However, one could expect the two prime ministers to instruct their foreign secretaries to carry on the dialogue and ask the officials to work out new formulae to settle the outstanding disputes between the two countries."
Mahesh Bhatt said, "Time will not forgive us if we fail to seize this opportunity to remove the irritants. Our cultures are the same and there is no reason why we cannot remove artificial boundaries."
Some Pakistanis, interviewed during the programme Sarhad ki Pukaar (Call of the Border), also were optimistic about the outcome of the visit's psychological fallout.
"We welcome Vajpayee in our land and look forward to a turning of the tide," one of them said.
Usha Dutta, prominent social worker and secretary of the Indo-Russian Women's Association, said it was "a ride in the right direction" as "enhanced people-to-people contact will give a fillip to bilateral ties". "It's like a dream come true," she said.
Bhushan Bazaz, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Forum hoped the visit would build bridges of confidence and generate a new purpose to tackle substantive issues like Kashmir. He advocated opening of road links between Srinagar and Rawalpindi and Jammu to Sialkot to intensify people-to-people contact.
The Raza academy today welcomed Vajpayee's Pakistan visit, saying that it would lead to peace and harmony between the people of India and Pakistan.
"The ulemas of India hail this step and believe that it will open a new door towards strengthening brotherhood ties and boost peace," the academy said in a release tonight.
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