Gujral says past’s ‘hangover’ only hitch in resolving Indo-Pak disputes
WAGAH: Former Indian premier Inder Kumar Gujral said on Sunday that the “hangover” of the past was the only hitch between the Indian and Pakistani governments in resolving bilateral issues.
Talking to journalists and human rights activists while leaving Pakistan via Wagah after a three-day visit, he said people-to-people contact, an exchange of delegations and better trade ties would help remove the “hangover”. “India and Pakistan should exchange goods rather than import them from other countries,” he added.
Both countries were independent and sovereign, but had to get over their differences, he added.
Mr Gujral was in Lahore to attend the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) bureau meeting. He is the chairperson of the organisation’s Indian chapter. The chairperson of the organisation’s Pakistani chapter, Asma Jehangir, senior journalist and South Asia Free Media Association Central Secretary General Imtiaz Alam and SAARC representatives saw him off at Wagah.
Mr Gujral also attended a private reception in his honour arranged by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri at his residence. Earlier, Mr Gujral met Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at his house.
He told journalists that India was one of the largest democracies in the world and should announce some unilateral concessions to improve relations with Pakistan. He also said both governments had no other option but being friendly with each other.
South Asian vision: He also said there would be no progress in the region unless South Asian countries worked together for economic growth. However, resources for such a growth had not yet been identified, he added.
SAARC consisted of seven sovereign countries with common cultures, languages and history, he said, adding, “Nobody dare disturb the sovereignty of these countries.”
He also called for setting up a centre of excellence to promote interfaith education, tolerance and imparting education through modern and advanced modes (particularly for middle class children). Mr Gujral said he had also suggested setting up a South Asian University on the same lines. He also called for a free visa regime between South Asian countries.
Prisoner list: Mr Gujral also handed over a list of 61 prisoners to SAHR’s Pakistani chapter that he had prepared with the help of their (prisoners) parents and relatives. These prisoners were reportedly in Pakistani prisons in Quetta and Kot Lakhpat after being handed over by Iranian authorities after being caught trying to cross illegally into Europe via Turkey a few months ago.
Mr Gujral said the families of several prisoners had come to him for help. He asked SAHR’s Pakistani chapter to take the issue up at the official level so that the prisoners could be released, he added. Ms Jehangir said there was no protocol at the high commission level to exchange prisoners between both countries. She demanded both governments evolve a pattern to resolve such issues.