‘JK gateway to Central Asia, let us explore and benefit from expanding connectivity in the region’

NEW DELHI: Appealing people of the country to help in building bridges of trust in Jammu & Kashmir, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday strongly advocated opening of more routes across LoC and initiation of political process to address the challenges confronting the State.

Speaking at a national seminar here, the Chief Minister said fostering cooperation across LoC would not only bring political stability across the region but the stakes of local people in peace would also get enhanced. “It would make the region a hub of emerging economic opportunities leading to cooperation in trade, commerce, tourism, adventure etc. across the region”, she added. She also sought opening of historic routes in the State including Jammu-Sialkote route to give the local people a stake in peace and development.

Governor, N N Vohra chaired the session and other speakers included Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, ESL Narsimhan and Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh.

Describing Jammu & Kashmir as the gateway to Central Asia, Mehbooba Mufti said it could become a corridor of economic activity in the region, and the country could take huge benefit of the economic activities going on across LoC. “Why can’t we be partners in economic growth and share the benefits of projects like CPEC. Let us move beyond skirmishes”, she told the gathering of top intellectuals, academicians and public policy planners attending the seminar drawn from different parts across the world.

Mehbooba Mufti also pitched for undertaking more State specific Confidence Building Measures including dialogue with all shades of opinion to ensure that no segment of population is left out in march of growth and prosperity. “Any grievance if left unattended bleeds the whole system”, she said while appealing to build a constituency for peace and dialogue across the country.

Appreciating the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his inclusive vision on Jammu & Kashmir, the Chief Minister said during his tenure Vajpayee worked on both the internal and external dimensions of the challenges confronting J&K and conducted an honourable outreach, resulting in an environment of peace and relaxation among the people. “And in this context when late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed raised the demand of opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in 2003, it was positively reciprocated and consequently graph of violence in the State fell down and focus shifted on good governance, she added. She expressed optimism that Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who is credited with taking very bold decisions, would further carry forward this vision to usher the state and the region in an era of peace, stability and prosperity.

Replying to a question by a participant, Mehbooba Mufti favored inclusion of more goods in the list of items being traded across LoC. She said her Government is also working on providing proper facilities of banking to the cross LoC trading activities.

The Chief Minister said the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ reached between the two parties in Jammu & Kashmir has received the backing of the entire country and whatever agreed upon in the document can be and would be implemented in a phased manner. “We should not shy away from taking bold steps like AFSPA revocation from certain areas to begin with”, she said adding that experiences have shown that governance alone cannot win over people and it has to be backed by a substantive political process on the ground.

She said the Indus Water Treaty being discriminatory to the State, return of power projects should also be thought to compensate the State for its losses.


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