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PM seeks participation of groups to build 'naya' Kashmir

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New Delhi, Feb 25: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today (Feb 25, 2006) sought the partnership of all groups and individuals to build a 'naya (new)' Jammu and Kashmir which would be symbolised by peace, prosperity and people's power.

In his opening remarks at the first-ever roundtable conference on Kashmir here, Dr Singh said through the participation of 'real' stakeholders can a new Jammu and Kashmir be built.

"I seek your participation to construct a 'naya' Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.... Let this roundtable be remembered as an important step in building such a Jammu and Kashmir", he added.

The all party roundtable conference on Kashmir, convened by the Prime Minister got underway here this morning.

The conference, which began at about 1100 hrs, is being held at the Prime Minister's 7, Race Course Road residence.

The conclave, which would have given an opportunity to the mainstream political leaders and the separatists to discuss the vexed issues on one platform, has lost much of its sheen due to non-participation of the secessionists.

The Prime Minister had convened the meet to ascertain views of all groups including political leaders, separatists, academicians, NGO's and others and arrive at a broad-based consensus on Kashmir.

The Prime Minister is being assisted by a high-level delegation, including Home Minister Shivraj Patil and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, at the meet. About 40 to 50 groups and individuals are participating in the conclave.

Dr Singh asserted that the new Jammu and Kashmir must be created on the basis of a ''shared vision'' of the people for which new pathways needed to be explored jointly. ''To build a better tomorrow for the people of Jammu and Kashmir we need to explore jointly new pathways,'' he added.

''We can never mechanically impose any idea on people it has to be based on joint efforts,'' Dr Singh said at the conclave where all groups and individuals will share their opinion on the vexed issue.

He said by joint efforts peoples' dream could be realised and processes of governance would truly be reflective of their concerns.

The Prime Minister said the roundtable had been called to share ideas and which would lead to the process of extensive consultation and debate with the people of the state.

''I want, as I said, a process to start once this roundtable ends... a process of extensive consultation and debate with the people of the state,'' he asserted.

''Today's meeting is a significant event. It will achieve historical importance if we are able to unleash a process by which we can arrive at a workable blueprint that can help to create a new chapter in Kashmir's history,'' he said.

Describing the roundtable as a ''dialogue'' where ''no one preaches and no one just listens'', the Prime Minister reiterated that the conclave was meeting of equals who promised to work together.

''There will be no compromise on one's ideals, but in spirit of mutual tolerance, understanding and accommodation,'' he added.

He called upon the civil society institutions of the state to become harbingers of peace by generating plans for a 'New' Kashmir.

However, Dr Singh admitted that the participants had divergent views on the issue and asserted that differences could be reconciled.

''I am of course acutely aware that all of us do not think alike. The people of Leh and Kargil may have different ideas from those living in Srinagar. But that is the real strength of our democracy, which celebrates differences and does not smother them,'' he added.

Besides political leaders from the Congress, National Conference, PDP, Panthers Party, the CPI (M) and the BJP and intellectuals, the roundtable is being attended by members of various organisations representing region-specific communities, including Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Gujjars, Bakarwals and individuals.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, his deputy Muzaffar Baig and several of their ministerial colleagues are participating in the conclave.

The Hashim Qureshi-led Democratic Liberation Party (DLP) is attending the conference, becoming the only separatist group from Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the meet.

UNI

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