Wednesday, Jun 25, 2003
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India & World
By B. Muralidhar Reddy
The stereotype image they had had before they set foot on Pakistani soil that perpetual hostility towards India is deeply embedded in the psyche of people is a thing of the past.
In an interaction with Indian correspondents based here, the group of seven MPs led by Kuldip Nayar said they were overwhelmed by the sentiments of love and affection shown by various sections in Pakistan, notwithstanding the indifference in official quarters.
"This was not the Pakistan I had in mind before I came here and mingled with different strata of society," said Pawan Kumar Bansal, Congress MP from Chandigarh.
The Samajwadi Party MP, Shahid Siddiqui, who is no stranger to Pakistan, including the establishment, said "I have visited Pakistan in the past. This time I noticed a fundamental change, not only in the common man but even in the ruling elite in Pakistan about the realisation that there can be no solution to the conflict between India and Pakistan except through negotiations".
Mr. Siddiqui said he was intrigued by the people's apathy towards jehad.
"In the past I used to hear a lot about jehad. This time I have not heard this in a single meeting anywhere. Even in private conversations nobody mentioned this word. There seems to be a change in the attitude of the ruling elite in Pakistan", he said.
"In the past, whenever I mentioned Indian Muslims I was not allowed to speak. This time not only people are listening but they are also appreciating my point that Indian Muslims are a crucial part of the Indian secular fabric. And the Indian secular fabric is inextricably linked to a solution to the Kashmir issue", he said.
He said in private people admitted that Pakistan cannot ignore the interests of the 18-crore Muslims of India for the sake of one-crore Kashmiri Muslims.
The National Conference MP from Baramullah in Jammu and Kashmir, Rashed Shaeen, said his message that Pakistanis should help reduce violence in Kashmir in order to restore the freedom of the speech of the Kashmiris was well received.
. The Congress MP from Chandigarh, Pawan Bansal, said he was surprised at the love and affection showered, wherever the delegation went.
He said while some Pakistanis still have suspicions about India, large sections wanted peace and friendship and said he was surprised to see a lot of Pakistanis opposed to third party mediation to solve the Kashmir issue.
"There is a discernible change in the mood of the people here. People believe war is not the solution. They believe that both countries should sort out their issues between themselves. The outsiders bring their own baggage. We should address our problems ourselves. Trade should be developed'', he said.
The Rajya Sabha member from Hyderabad, K.M. Khan, said there should be more people-to-people contacts to remove misunderstandings. While the recent peace moves were appreciated, he said there should be more consistency in the approach of the leaders.
Lakshman Seth of the CPI (M) said: " I do not know what the Government here thinks, but the people of Pakistan want friendly relations with India."
The RPI MP, Ramdas Athwale, said the Pakistan people wanted to develop political and social relations with India.
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