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BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY National Executive Meeting
Hyderabad -- January 11-12, 2004


The National Executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party, meeting in Hyderabad on January 11-12, 2004, heartily congratulates the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on his historic visit to Islamabad last week. The visit became path breaking because of his statesmanlike contribution to two positive developments – the landmark 12th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the breakthrough achieved in the frozen bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. Together, these two developments have once again confirmed that Shri Atalji is one of the tallest leaders dedicated to Peace and Development in the world today.

The Islamabad summit of SAARC will go down as one of the most productive meetings of the Heads of State or Government of South Asian countries. The signing of the Framework Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) brings to fruition the long-cherished vision of many people, who have argued that the economies of South Asian countries have numerous obvious synergies and that these synergies should be harnessed through intra-regional trade without barriers. Experience of free trade agreements in regional groupings elsewhere in the world, such as the ASEAN, European Union and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area) has clearly shown that trade cooperation acts as an engine of economic growth and benefits all the member countries.

India had always been in favour of SAFTA. However, it was mainly the negative attitude of some of our neighbours which had prevented it from being accepted by SAARC. These countries had chosen to remain a victim of the paranoia that free trade in South Asia would benefit India more than others. For example, the little trade that takes place between India and Pakistan is either through smuggling or is routed in a roundabout way via markets such as Dubai and Singapore. Some of our South Asian neighbours do not mind buying a wide range of goods, services and technologies from western countries at exorbitant rates, even when India can easily supply them at matching quality but at far lower prices. The agreement on SAFTA removes these absurdities and paves the way for a rapid growth in trade between all the SAARC countries.

Since ancient times, South Asia has been home to one of the most naturally integrated trade and economic regions in the world, without discrimination against and exploitation of any of its constituents. SAFTA provides the opportunity to revive that situation – of course, suitably adapted to modern conditions. The Prime Minister has introduced other visionary ideas in the SAARC context, such as a common South Asian currency leading to a common South Asian market, and revitalization of the socio-cultural bonds that constitute our countries as a South Asian Family. History will record the contribution of these bold ideas in transforming South Asia, which today has one of the largest populations of poor people in the world, into a zone of prosperity and all-round progress comparable to, or surpassing, any other region in the world.

The National Executive expresses satisfaction at the signing of an Additional Protocol on Terrorism and the adoption of a Social Charter at the SAARC summit in Islamabad. The Prime Minister has placed an energizing poverty alleviation vision before SAARC by calling upon all its members to resolve to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which the UN mandates all countries to reach by 2015, by 2010 itself.

Taken together the three positive outcomes of the Islamabad SAARC Summit clearly show that India has succeeded in bringing about a convergence of perspectives, interests, and a sense of urgency among South Asian countries to live up to SAARC’s true mandate – as a regional platform that can propel economic cooperation, social development, peace and mutual understanding. In bringing about this convergence, Shri Atalji’s guiding hand is now universally acknowledged.

The National Executive wholeheartedly applauds the Prime Minister’s other successful initiative in Islamabad – namely, getting the leadership of Pakistan to commit itself, for the first time in a bilateral context, not to allow anybody to use any territory under its control for carrying out acts of terrorism against India. This commitment is unambiguously secured in the Joint Press Statement issued in Islamabad, following useful talks between our Prime Minister and President General Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of SAARC. This is an important outcome of the sustained two-pronged campaign carried out by the Indian Government – a relentless offensive against cross-border terrorism, combined with the unveiling of a steady set of confidence-building measures to improve bilateral relations with Pakistan. Our policy of firmness on principles and flexibility in tactics appears to be working. Additionally, the awareness that the Bhasmasur of jehadi terrorism is threatening Pakistan’s own stability has also contributed to its rulers’ changed stance.

Nevertheless, the BJP urges the Government to remain ever vigilant and calibrate its every step in improving relations with Pakistan with necessary caution. The National Executive welcomes the decision to resume the process of the Composite Dialogue in February and wishes the process every success.