Manmohan calls for new beginning in Indo-Pak ties
Reaffirms India’s Support For Palestinian Struggle
V MOHAN NARAYAN
Riyadh, Mar 1: India is willing to walk the “extra mile” to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan “if that country acts decisively against terrorism,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday.
Addressing the Majlis-al-Shura or the Saudi Consultative Council here, he said India seeks a cooperative relationship with Pakistan for permanent peace as both countries are bound together by a shared future.
“We seek cooperative relations with Pakistan. Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole,” Singh said.
But to realise this vision, the Prime Minister asserted, Pakistan must “act decisively against terrorism”.
“If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve our issues and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries,” Singh, who concluded his three-day visit to the oil-rich kingdom today, said.
Noting that both India and Saudi Arabia are threatened by extremism and violence, the Prime Minister said, “History teaches us that the scourge of terrorism must be confronted with determination and united effort. Nowhere is this challenge greater than in Afghanistan.”
He said the pursuit of terror in the name of religion or any other cause or grievance cannot be acceptable to civilised societies. “It has no sanction in any religion.” He said India wishes to live in peace and friendship with its neighbours and he believed that all countries of South Asia should work together to realise a common vision of peace and inclusive development for the region.
Addressing the members of the legislative body that advises the Saudi King, Singh said Islam is an integral part of India’s nationhood and ethos and of the rich tapestry of its culture. “India has made significant contributions to all aspects of Islamic civilisation. Centres of Islamic learning in India have made a seminal contribution to Islamic and Arab studies,” he said.
“Our 160 million Muslims are contributing to our nation building efforts and have excelled in all walks of life. We are proud of our composite culture,” he said. Returning to the issue of bilateral ties, he said India considers Saudi Arabia as a “pillar of stability” in the Gulf region and expressed confidence that the two countries could forge a “new partnership”.
Describing west Asia as a vital part of India’s extended neighbourhood,
Singh said, “we have a high stake in the peace and stability of the region” and “neither the countries of the region nor the world can afford fresh turmoil.”
He reaffirmed India’s support for the struggle of Palestinian people and its backing for the Arab Peace Initiative to ensure peace and stability in the region.
“For far too long, the brave people of Palestine have been denied their legitimate and inalienable rights, including most of all the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestine state. I wish to pay a special tribute to His Majesty (the Saudi King) for the initiatives he has taken to bring about a just settlement,” he said.
“We applaud and support the Arab Peace Initiative,” Singh said referring to the peace plan first proposed in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League which attempts to normalise Arab-Israeli ties in exchange of a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and a just settlement of the Palestinian refugee crisis.
Singh reaffirmed the “principled, strong and consistent” support of the government and people of India for “the struggle of the Palestinian people”.
Referring to his meeting with King Abdullah and other Saudi leaders yesterday, Singh said these talks have led to reaffirmation of the close ties and common interests of the two countries.
“We have agreed to impart a strategic character to our relations, and have put in place a roadmap for bilateral economic, political and security-related cooperation that will constitute the core of our relationship in the coming years.”
Singh said the kingdom is home to the largest Indian community abroad numbering 1.8 million and that Indian workers and professionals have participated in the “extraordinary development of this region”.
He also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for the warm welcome it has extended to the community as well as pilgrims from India who come here every year to perform Haj and Umrah.
“As many as 165,000 Indian pilgrims perform Haj annually, the second largest group from any single country,” the Prime Minister noted.
Singh also said India and Saudi Arabia should work together to promote dialogue and peaceful co-existence among nations, religions and societies.
“Together, India and Saudi Arabia can become a potent moral force for a better world and for a more secure future for our children,” the Prime Minister said.
Welcoming the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Majlis-al-Shura Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh paid tribute to the stand taken by India towards international issues and the support it has extended to the Arab Peace Initiative to reduce tension in West Asia.
PM leaves for home after Saudi visit Dr Singh left for home Monday evening. PTI
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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