Sat, Mar 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

India tells Pakistan it just wants to be friends


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called yesterday for a friendship treaty with Pakistan to help resolve the bitter issues that have bedeviled relations for almost six decades.

"I have a vision that the peacemaking process must ultimately culminate in our two countries entering into a treaty of peace, security and friendship to give meaning and substance to our quest for shared goals," Singh said.

"I make this offer to the people of Pakistan on this historic occasion. I am sure the leadership of Pakistan will reciprocate," he said, while flagging off a new bus link connecting India's Sikh holy city of Amritsar with the Pakistani pilgrimage town of Nankana Sahib.

The bus service is the latest step in attempts to normalize relations between the arch-rivals, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

The nuclear-armed rivals launched a peace bid two years ago which has so far yielded increased transport links but has not yet made headway on the key issue of Kashmir, which is divided between them but claimed by each in full.

"Instead of looking at each other as adversaries we must have the courage to see each other as supporting the other for the realization of our better tomorrow for all the people of India and Pakistan," Singh said.

"I am convinced we can move forward, if all concerned are willing to accept the ground realities; if all concerned take a long view of history and our destiny," he said.

He was convinced, he said, that it was possible for India and Pakistan to come to a "meaningful" agreement on issues such as the dispute over the Siachen glacier, a border row at Sir Creek and a water dispute in Kashmir.

Indian and Pakistani troops remain eyeball to eyeball at Siachen glacier in Kashmir, at 6,300m the world's highest battlefield; the two sides dispute their border at Sir Creek marsh joining western India and Pakistan; while they are squabbling over waters India plans to dam up at Baglihar in its part of divided Kashmir.

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