March 24, 2006

PM's speech on launch of Amritsar - Nankana Sahib Bus Service

I am extremely happy to be here in Amritsar on this very important occasion of the launch of a regular bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib. This is indeed a memorable day for Punjab. This is a historic day for the entire Sikh community, both in Punjab and elsewhere. This is a historic day for the Panth. In many ways, it is a historic day for both India and Pakistan.

Ever since the Independence of our country in 1947, every morning, every devout Sikh prays to let us have free access to the Gurudwaras left behind in Pakistan. And among the Gurudwaras, Nankana Sahib is the holiest and most important. Our government has made sincere efforts in this direction and this bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib is a result of this.

This is an emotional day for every Sikh. And for me too. Memories of the partition of 1947 and my own travel from Pakistan to India come vividly to my mind. My heart swells with pride to launch this bus service connecting two of the holiest sites for the Sikh Panth. On this historic occasion I send my greetings to the people of Pakistan and to President Pervez Musharraf.

Brothers and Sisters,

We need more such links between the two countries in the months and years to come. For this, we require friendly relations between India and Pakistan. I hope this bus service opens yet another chapter in improving the relations between our two countries. When President Musharraf had come to visit us in New Delhi last year I had said that "The journey of peace must be based on a step-by-step approach, but the road must be traveled." As an ancient saying goes, a road is made by walking.

I am happy that we are moving forward and creating a road, one step after another, even though many hurdles have come up along the way. The bus service from Srinagar to Muzzafarabad was one step. The rail link from Munnabao to Khokrapar was another step. The steps we have taken to promote trade and to make travel and transport easier are all small but important steps forward. Today, we take another step. A historic step. This bus service from Amritsar to Nankana Sahib renews an emotional bond between the two sides of the border.

I have said repeatedly to President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan that we are sincerely committed to peace and development in this region. Our government is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. For this, I and General Musharraf have agreed that it is necessary to keep firm control over terrorism. There is a growing realization in both our countries that terrorism is an enemy of civilized societies. General Musharraf has taken bold steps to curb extremism and I compliment him for that. But more needs to be done in the interest of both India and Pakistan.

As I see it, the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan will open up enormous opportunities for an accelerated rate of economic growth. And for creating new job opportunities. Our trade potential is far in excess of what we are able to realize on the ground. There are many things that the two Punjabs can learn from each other's development experience. We must encourage people-to-people contacts between actors in civil society, between academics, businessmen, artistes, and most importantly, the common people. It is through such contacts that we can explore a vision for a cooperative common future for our two nations - a future where peace prevails, where relations are friendly, where our citizens rejoice in the well-being of the other country.

I am aware that General Musharraf has often stated that the normalization of relations between our two countries cannot move forward unless what he calls the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir is dealt with. In my view, it is a mistake to link normalization of other relations with finding a solution to Jammu & Kashmir. But we are not afraid of discussing Jammu & Kashmir or of finding, pragmatic, practical solutions to resolve this issue as well.

A step-by-step approach has to be adopted given the inherent difficulties involved in finding practical solutions. I suggest that both sides should begin a dialogue with the people in their areas of control to improve the quality of governance so as to give the people on both sides a greater chance of leading a life of dignity and self respect.

I have often said that borders cannot be redrawn but we can work towards making them irrelevant - towards making them just lines on a map. People on both sides of the LOC should be able to move more freely and trade with one another.

I also envisage a situation where the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir can, with the active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms so as to maximize the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region.

The vision that guides us is that the destinies of our peoples are interlinked. That our two countries must therefore devise effective cooperative strategies to give concrete shape and meaning to this shared vision. India sincerely believes that a strong, stable, prosperous and moderate Pakistan is in the interest of India and entire South Asia. We are sincerely committed to the prosperity, unity, development and well-being of Pakistan. We want good neighbourly relations. We want all the people of South Asia to live a life of dignity and self-respect. When our neighbours live in peace, we live in peace.

Brothers and Sisters,

We must move forward. We want to move forward. We need to do much more to create the environment in which we can move forward. It is possible for us to come to a meaningful agreement on issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, Baglihar. 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 of our destiny. The time has come to leave behind the animosities and the misgivings of the past and to think the unthinkable of moving together in pursuit of our common objective of getting rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease that still afflict millions of our citizens. India and Pakistan must work together to open up new opportunities of economic cooperation, not only with South Asia, but also with West Asia and Central Asia. Cities like Lahore and Amritsar should once again become throbbing international commercial centers serving the entire region.

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 a better tomorrow for all the people of India and Pakistan. I have a vision that the peace making 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. I make this offer to the people of Pakistan on this historic occasion. I am sure the leadership of Pakistan will reciprocate.

Brothers and Sisters,

Today is a day of hope for Punjab. Punjab has seen many years of great pain and sorrow. Punjab has seen many years of waste and violence. But the past is behind us. This Golden Land of ours is once again bounteous and filled with joy. Our government in Delhi and in Punjab have been working tirelessly for the development of the state.

I am delighted to inform you that during the recent past after my last visit our Government has taken several steps to restore the glory of Amritsar. We have sanctioned Rs. 72 crore to complete the Galiara Project around Sri Harmandir Sahib. We have established a Centre of Research on Sri Guru Granth Sahib Studies in the Guru Nanak Dev University. We have allocated Rs. 48 crore for the completion of the Khalsa Heritage Project at Anandpur Sahib. I believe the first phase of it will be inaugurated next month.

I am happy to announce that we are taking further steps for the development of Amritsar. This is a holy city. A historic city with a great past. An international city whose people reside in all corners of the world. Both Amritsar and Ludhiana are covered under the new Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Through this, we can fund the Sri Guru Ram Das Urban Development Project in Amritsar costing nearly Rs. 240 crore and an elevated road project costing Rs. 210 crore. The state government should pursue these on priority. The Amritsar-Wagah Road will be widened and made into a top class road so that it can become an international highway for trade, travel and tourism. We are taking steps for the upgradation of facilities at Attari Railway Station, being a major International Railway Station of the country. I am also happy that the state government has finalized the development of a Special Economic Zone in Amritsar. This city and its neighborhood had a great industrial past. We need to revive it and the SEZ is one such step.

I am also concerned about the problems being faced by industry which had come up in Goindwal Industrial Complex. I am confident that the Punjab Government will look into all the issues and come up with a package for its revival. I assure all necessary support from the Government of India in this regard.

I am also proud to announce that we have decided to hand over the historic Gobindgarh fort to the Punjab Government. A historic fort that has been so dear to the Punjabis is now once again their own.

Brothers and Sisters,

Our Government has taken many steps for the development of Punjab. We have provided in the Union Budget a sum of Rs. 100 crore to the Punjab Agricultural University. This university must utilize these funds to generate a Second Green Revolution in Punjab. The hard working farmers of this lovely state feed the nation and made us secure as far as food is concerned. They created the first green revolution. We now need to move forward and transform the agriculture to the next level. As I travel across the country, I see states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu increasingly going for commercial agriculture centered around horticulture. Punjab farmers need to do the same if they are to keep ahead of the rest of the country. We will work with the state government to realize this goal by establishing the necessary marketing and storage infrastructure and transport facilities. The high speed rail freight corridor connecting our Western and Eastern ports has been extended to Punjab to enable easy transport of goods. We are also working towards creating a second international airport in Punjab near Ludhiana and I hope this materializes in the coming months.

Brothers and sisters,

Punjab has had a glorious history of industrial growth. Each town and city has been renowned for specific industrial products - bicycles, hosiery, machine tools, sports goods, etc. Over the last two decades, however, Punjab has lost its leadership role in many areas. We need a new wave of industrialization in the state. We need large industries which will generate demand for ancillary products. We need to provide technology and marketing support to small industries. We need to create a skilled pool of people who can drive this growth. We need to have better roads, transport facilities and power supply.

Steps are being taken towards this end. We have allocated 1500 MWs of power to Punjab from a Super Thermal Power Station to be set up in Chhattisgarh and 1200 MWs of power from other Power Stations in the country. Power supply in and around Amritsar will improve greatly through the creation of a major new sub-station at Amritsar at a cost of Rs 150 crore. We are establishing an Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Punjab. I have directed the National Highways Authority of India to complete at an early date the 4-laning of widening of the following roads:

Amritsar-Jalandhar Road;

Amritsar-Pathankot Road;

Kiratpur-Chandigarh Road;

Ambala-Chandigarh Road;

and also take up early the 6-laning of Ambala-Jalandhar Road and Ludhiana-Chandigarh Road.

Our Government has also decided to develop on-port and off-port facilities at Wagah International Border. This includes reducing waiting time for immigration and custom formalities at Wagah. We will modernize customs infrastructure at Wagah and speed up security clearance. We propose to expand immigration, customs and security halls and increase number of counters, and provide better amenities. We will make it easier for the arrival and departure of jathas and delegations. An animal quarantine station will be set up for exporters of live stock. We will improve facilities for the Amritsar-Lahore buses. We are also improving the infrastructure for the Beating Retreat ceremony at Wagah border post.

Brothers and sisters,

Punjab is the granary of India. Every farmer in Punjab is a proud soldier in our war against poverty and hunger. Your hard work has made India proud and prosperous. Your courage and enterprise makes each one of us proud. As a son of Punjab I salute every son and daughter of this great land. May your path be blessed.

Jai Hind.