Indian Par for terror-free ties with Pak: Meira



Islamabad: Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Wednesday told Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani there was consensus in the Indian parliament on forging a relationship of trust and cooperation with Pakistan "in an atmosphere free of terror and violence".

Kumar, the first Lok Sabha Speaker to visit Pakistan, made the remarks at a reception hosted by Gilani for a visiting Indian parliamentary delegation led by her.

India, she said, wished to see a "stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan".

"There was consensus in the Indian parliament on building a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation between India and Pakistan in an atmosphere free of terror and violence," Kumar was quoted as saying in a statement issued by her office.

"Such a relationship would be to the benefit of people of both countries and contribute to prosperity in the region," she said.

Kumar said the people of India desire a strong friendship with their Pakistani counterparts.

"I will tell the people of India that the people of Pakistan reciprocate their desire for friendship," she remarked.

In his address, Gilani said it was "his cherished desire to have a constructed sustainable and result-oriented dialogue with India".

Such a dialogue is necessary for "permanent and solid relations" and will also usher in development and prosperity in the region, he added.

Pakistan is a peace loving country that wants good relations with all its neighbours, including India, Gilani said.

He noted that the first round of the resumed India- Pakistan dialogue was held last year and expressed the hope that the second round of talks this year would "bear fruits".

India and Pakistan resumed their peace process last year after a gap of over two years following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were blamed on Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Gilani said he had "great regard" for his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, who accepted his initiative for dialogue.

"I respect Dr Manmohan Singh from the bottom of my heart and I share his desire for peace," he said.

India and Pakistan should work together for the poor and against hunger, disease and poverty in the two countries, Gilani said.

"We should think about the future of the people so they have drinking water, health and education," he said.

The premier referred to Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's visit to Pakistan last week and said he hoped that trade between the two countries would grow and contribute to the prosperity of people and to trust between the two countries.

Gilani stressed on more people-to-people contacts and exchange of parliamentary delegations.

"Governments come and go but the love of people remains and your visit will pave the way for strengthening relations between the people," he told Kumar.

He asked Kumar to convey his regards to the Indian Prime Minister and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.

Kumar conveyed the greetings of the Indian parliament, government and people to their counterparts of Pakistan. She also conveyed greetings from the Indian Prime Minister to his Pakistani counterpart.

Both leaders shared a "very good relationship" and had moved bilateral relations in a positive direction through their meetings over the last two years, she added.

Fehmida Mirza, Speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly, said in her speech that the Pakistan-Indian Parliamentary Group should meet twice a year to increase mutual understanding.

Earlier in the day, Indian and Pakistani parliamentarians agreed to work to ensure the success of the bilateral peace process and to enhance regional cooperation.

This was decided at a meeting between members of Pakistan's Women Parliamentary Caucus and the Indian parliamentary delegation headed by Kumar.

The Indian delegation visited the WPC secretariat for the meeting, which was aimed at providing greater opportunities for interaction between women parliamentarians of India and Pakistan and the exchange of experiences, expertise and good practices, officials said.

Lok Sabha Speaker Kumar said women in India and Pakistan face similar problems.

Over the past few years, there had been a "silent revolution" whereby more women had educated and empowered themselves to ensure their rights and to avail of opportunities, she said.

Nafisa Shah, secretary of the WPC, said women of both countries should act as agents of change and play their role in transforming the bilateral dialogue process.

Trade and visa opportunities for women of both countries figured in the discussions, officials said.

The two sides agreed that exchange programmes for parliamentarians, students, women entrepreneurs and researchers should be promoted to boost economic and social ties.

Kumar and her delegation also met the Parliamentary Friendship Group for India in the National Assembly. The interaction was hosted by former minister and Convener of the Group, Qamar Zaman Kaira.

PTI