Guwahati, Feb 18 (PTI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singhtoday said the recent discussion with the ULFA leadership inNew Delhi was a "good beginning" and gave him hope for thefuture of Assam and the northeast.
"I was happy to meet representatives of the ULFArecently in New Delhi. The discussion was a good beginning andhas given me hope for Assam and North East," he said afterpresenting the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial awards for 2008and 2009 at the Pragjyoti ITA auditorium here.
Singh said he firmly believed that dialogue was theonly method for fostering greater understanding and resolvingvexed social, political and economic problems.
The top ULFA leadership, led by chairman ArabindaRajkhowa had called on the prime minister on February 14 aftermeeting Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and holding thepreliminary round of talks with Union Home Secretary G KPillai on February 10.
"Assam has witnessed turbulent times in the recentpast and it is to the credit of the people of the state thatthey have been able to successfully combat fissiparousforces," Singh said.
It goes without saying that peace and harmony are apre-requisite for a meaningful development, he noted saying"I am happy that a number of initiatives have been taken byboth the central and state governments under Tarun Gogoitowards this end."
He said establishment of territorial/hill councils hasprovided a forum to address genuine needs.
"We must, however, help these councils to buildcapacities to ensure that they are able to fulfil theirresponsibilities in a manner which is responsive, purposeful,transparent and accountable," Singh said.
According to him, the Indian society has a "glorioustradition of tolerance and secularism. The country has everbeen ready to accommodate newer ways of thinking and living.
"The liberal outlook that defines our multi-religiousand multi-cultural society needs to be nurtured andstrengthened."
Unveiling the Rs 1600-crore Guwahati Water SupplyProject at the same venue, Singh hoped the project, beingexecuted with financial assistance from Japan InternationalCooperation Agency, would benefit a large segment of thepopulation of Guwahati.
He stressed on strengthening urban infrastructureexpeditiously as in the next 20 years nearly half thecountry''s population would live in urban areas. .