KL NEWS ROOM
Asserting that there is no alternative to peace between India and Pakistan, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Thursday described cross-LoC trade and travel as an initiative not only to bring divided families closer but a big step towards promoting culture, education, business and tourism on the two sides of the Line of Control.
Welcoming the move by India and Pakistan to re-engage in dialogue process, he, however, described as most disturbing the persistent shelling along the IB and LoC in which precious and innocent human lives have been lost, an official statement said this evening. “I am sure the resumption of dialogue between the two countries will help build trust and put across the yearning desire of the people for lasting peace in the region,” he stated. The Chief Minister said this during his visit to Salamabad and Uri, here today.
In a major fillip to cross-LoC trade and travel across Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, Mufti Sayeed set into motion work on Phase II Projects at Salamabad costing Rs 12.60 Crore. Besides laying foundation of the residential accommodation at Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC), Salamabad, he also inaugurated the Jabla Bridge and a cafeteria at Kaman Post, meant to facilitate the outbound and incoming cross-LoC travellers.
The Chief Minister, on his earlier visit to Salamabad and Kaman Post 2½ months ago, had given a slew of directions to explore new avenues to expand cross-LoC trade and travel so that it becomes a show-window for visitors, who on their arrival, witness strides made by J&K on the developmental front.
Describing cross-LoC ties as the biggest CBM for ushering in peace and harmony between India and Pakistan, Mufti Sayeed said Kashmir has its own unique identity that India has recognized. “I am only giving direction to a dream I and people of Kashmir saw in 2002 and which took shape in 2005 when the first bus travelled from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar. I want people from all walks of life to be part of cross-LoC ties” he said, while remembering how Kashmir became a torchbearer of composite culture and secularism in 1947 when the entire country was embroiled in a communal frenzy.
Conveying a sense of discomfort over continued instability in the region, the Chief Minister favoured a joint working mechanism between India and Pakistan to counter the scourge of terrorism, which has afflicted both the countries over the past several years. He said there is no good or a bad terrorist as they are all enemies of humanity. “I am a born optimist. I see light in darkness which seems to be around. I want to make a new beginning in making J&K abode of peace and harmony in the country,” he said, while hoping that New Delhi and Islamabad will break ice in the upcoming NSA-level talks.
Recalling the swearing in ceremony of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in May last year, which was attended by heads of all SAARC nations, including Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharief, Mufti Sayeed praised Narendra Modi for taking a lead in making SAARC an engine of growth, just what frontline nations did in bringing Europe together under one umbrella. “Ï have seen an urge in Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve relations with all SAARC nations, including Pakistan,” he added.
Laying stress over bolstering trade and travel ties across the LoC, the Chief Minister said the State Government has achieved progress in the negotiations with Centre over extending banking and telecom facilities and clearance of proposed trade delegation to Muzaffarabad for business-related discussions, which are vital for smooth conduct of cross-LoC trade. The issues can be clinched if both India and Pakistan agree to the proposal in the meetings of the Joint Working Group (JWG), held between the two countries from time-to-time.
Reiterating his commitment to four-lanning of Uri-Kaman Post Road, Mufti Sayeed said his Government is working on a plan to promote Kashmir Handicraft as a major tradable item in cross-LoC business. He said the demand of increasing the number of items being traded at the two cross Line of Control trade points – Salamabad and Chakan da Bagh – and opening more trade points is under the active consideration and being vigorously pursued with the Union Government. “I also favour more meeting points across the LoC so that people are able to interact and exchange ideas,” he added, while referring to steps taken by European Union in breaking physical barriers in bringing the countries with political and ideological differences together.
While addressing the media on the side lines of the function, the Chief Minister said the real bonhomie between India and Pakistan exists at the two cross-LoC points of Salamabad and Chakan da Bagh. “Reality is what we are observing here, not what is shown,” he told the media-persons, while referring to the outpouring of emotions, love and affection witnessed when people from the two sides of LoC meet each other.
On his arrival at Uri, Mufti Sayeed highlighted its significance and emphasized upon involving local people as stakeholders in cross-LoC trade. He said the Government has engaged reputed consultants to develop Uri as a Gateway to cross-LoC trade and a ‘smart town’, which will be a blend of Kashmir’s traditional architecture and modernity. He also viewed a presentation by State Tourism Department that will work to transform Uri into a smart town at a cost of Rs 13.85 Crore. The broad features of the project are modernization of Uri bus stand, up-gradation of inner link roads, creation of hotel accommodation and wayside facilities leading towards Salamabad, landscaping and plantation of fruit and ornamental trees in and around the town to improve the ambience.
The Chief Minister issued directions for working out modalities so that the work on the project is commenced and completed in a time-bound manner. He also passed instructions for developing a big recreational park at Uri.
Earlier, the Chief Minister inaugurated Jabla Bridge which will improve connectivity between Uri and Salamabad. Constructed at a cost of Rs 8.1 Crore, the 60-metre-long girder bridge has been completed 10 months ahead of its scheduled timeline. At Kaman Post, the Chief Minister opened a cafeteria, which has been constructed in a record time of two months.
Mufti Sayeed also laid foundation of residential accommodation at Salamabad, which envisages construction of staff quarters for Custodian, TFC and Customs’ Officers of MEA, cargo hall, parking bays and parks. In Phase I, Rs. 9.76 crore have been expended on improving facilities at the cross-LoC Trade Post.
The Deputy Chief Minister, in his remarks, said the Government is taking steps to improve facilities across the two cross-LoC points in the state. He said we want to send across a message to our neighbour about the burning desire amongst our people for peace and harmony in the region. He said SAARC was conceived as a platform to bring the South Asian countries together but it unfortunately could not grow to its full potential, unlike the European Union. “India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will take steps to strengthen the conglomeration of South Asian countries to firmly entrench peace in the region,” he added.
The Minister for I&C, in his address, assured the Chief Minister that both TFCs will be modernized as state-of-the-art trade and travel centres. He said he is personally monitoring the pace and progress of expansion works being undertaken at Salamabad and Chakan da Bagh so that these become major business hubs in the country and models to emulate.
Financial Commissioner, I&C, gave a detailed presentation about the present status of cross-LoC trade. He informed the Chief Minister that cumulatively, items worth over Rs 1700 Crore as trade in and trade out have been bartered via Salamabad, while export-import figures for Chakan da Bagh stood at Rs 535 Crore.
The Chief Minister was also briefed about the status of issues taken up with the Union, which include revision of agreed list of items, banking facility at TFCs and installation of full body truck scanners.
Also present were DGP, K Rajendra, Principal Secretary, Home, R K Goyal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Hussain Samoon, DC, Baramulla, Peerzada Mushtaq Ahmad and former ADGP and senior PDP leader, Raja Aijaz Ali.