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Badal has argued that the economic future of East Punjab rests with the renewal of commercial engagement with West Punjab and the reopening of post-Partition borders that were locked down after the 1965 and 1971 wars. In his talks with West Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other political and business leaders, Badal has laid out an ambitious agenda for the two Punjabs.
On the economic side, Badal called for opening additional trade routes besides the current one at Wagah-Attari, and the establishment of joint industrial zones on the Radcliffe Line with duty-free access to India and Pakistan. Badal and Sharif have agreed to set up a working committee with representatives from the two Punjabs to monitor, promote and facilitate trade across the Radcliffe Line.
Within a few weeks, Sharif, accompanied by a large business delegation, is expected to arrive in Amritsar, reciprocating Badal's visit. Badal also wants India and Pakistan to ease the many current restrictions on travel across the Radcliffe Line. He has urged Delhi and Islamabad to set up consulates in Lahore and Amritsar.
Badal is not the only one demanding that India and Pakistan redress the many negative effects of Partition on the people of the subcontinent. There are millions of people across the country, including in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who have great stakes in a normal relationship between India and Pakistan.
The bitter legacies of Partition are not confined to our western frontiers. The division of Bengal in 1947 has left a huge trail of its own unresolved problems. The UPA government has sought a genuine transformation of relations with Pakistan. It had also made great headway with Bangladesh, until the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, threw a spanner into the works.
The Congress party's political timidity, the PM's unwillingness to impose his authority on his cabinet colleagues, the UPA's reluctance to call the bluff of allies like Banerjee and its hesitation to command the bureaucracy, have severely constrained Delhi.