PMs visit in Q&A

What was Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s agenda in his Kashmir visit?
Dr Singh inaugurated the 18.359 kms of railway track between Islamabad and Qazigund that completed the Rs. 3250 crores 119-kms Baramulla-Qazigund stretch. The track consumed 810 hectors of land and has 62 major and 739 small bridges. Railways also constructed 145 kms of roads around the tracks. There are 15 stations in between the two main stops.

What he said?
Apart from the public meeting at Islamabad railway station and the press conference that he addressed after completing his visit, Prime Minister had interactions with political parties, traders, security men and state government. Apart from asking youth to join in rebuilding Kashmir and announcing opening of a new chapter in the peace process in J&K involving all the stakeholders, Dr Singh’s main emphasis was on Pakistan. He said the destinies of India and Pakistan are very closely interlinked and if negotiations to deal with all outstanding issues are to make any headway, it is essential that the terrorist elements should be brought under control. He refused to term it a pre-condition but said this is a practical way of looking at things. Rejecting the allegation of India’s involvement in Balochoistan or Taliban, he said he was dissatisfied with Pakistani probe on Mumbai attacks.
Rejecting the idea of making any compromise with terrorists, Dr Singh said majority of people in Pakistan seek good neighbourly and cooperative relations between the two neighbours. But for a productive dialogue that will result in easing things for traders, divided families, travellers and prisoners, he said, controlling terrorism was essential.

Did he announce any CBM?
Nothing new. He acknowledged the unfriendliness of the initiative given the inadequate trade facilities, lack of banking channels, weak customs facilities, and lack of trade fairs, limited tradable commodities, and time-consuming clearances for travel. However, he said these CBMs should move further ahead which requires the cooperation of the people and the government of Pakistan.

Is the stalled talks process being resumed?
In his public speech Dr Singh said India is willing to talk to anyone who has any meaningful ideas for promoting peace and development in Kashmir. He reiterated that all stakeholders would be carried along in resolving the political and economic problems of J&K. For talks there is no precondition other than abjuring violence. Before taking off he hoped his appeal for dialogue is reciprocated in the spirit in which it was made. He said he was not under any (international) pressure and in fact India has lodged a protest for (against whom) getting involved on Kashmir.

Was Mufti Sayeed on dice?
Yes, he was there at Islamabad. He had been invited by Prime Minister despite the state government disliking the idea.
Any package?
No. Prime Minister did not even review the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) apparently because the central agencies have performed very badly as compared to state agencies. But he approved Rs 350 crores additional funds for Dal lake, full disbursement of the investment on Mughal road (Rs 650 crores) earmarking Rs. 125 crores to upgrade urban infrastructure in important towns in the Valley. The centre, he said, will favourably consider providing financial assistance for the replacement of 40,000 carpet looms in five years. He announced training 200 youth as tourist escorts for the Vaishno Devi and Amarnath yatras; enrolling 8000 youth as volunteers by Union Youth Affairs Ministry and engaging them productively in public service in the state for an honorarium; training 300 youth under the “Hunar Se Rozgar Tak” scheme besides asking Labour Ministry to arrange hosting 8000 youth from J&K in various ITIs to take advantage of the modular skill development programmes in sectors with high employment potential. For approaching winter, J&K has been assured allocation of 500 MW of energy depending on the load pattern and the emergent requirements.

Dr Singh spoke to security men. What happened there?
Before taking off, Prime Minister spoke to police and CRPF at STC Humhama. Exact details are not available but he told reporters that he commended the brave and heroic efforts of the security forces.  He said the responsibility for maintaining law and order in J&K will increasingly devolve on state police. Importantly, he said, the government has raised the standards of accountability and transparency in their working in order to enhance public trust and confidence.

Political parties met him. Had they any agenda?
For most of the Tuesday evening, he was meeting leaders of political parties. In his impressive speech at the public meeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, “If I only talk about money and development, it will be an injustice. Kashmir problem is not about money but it is a political issue and needs to be addressed politically.” What transpired between the ruling coalition members meeting with Prime Minister is not known. PDP circulated a memorandum to the press that it said was submitted to Dr Singh. It asked addressing Kashmir on external as well as internal dimensions and suggested that the civil society and the institutions of democracy must get a free play, as is happening in rest of the country so that people’s faith in the process of dialogue and peaceful resolution strengthens. Others issues included troops reduction, withdrawal of AFSPA, release of political detainees, zero tolerance to human rights abuses, implementation of recommendations of the working groups and Rangarajan Task Force report besides transferring Dul Hasti as part of the compensation in lieu of Indus Water Treaty losses.

What was Sonia Gandhi doing?
She commemorated her mother-in-law Mrs Gandhi’s last visit to Kashmir, who incidentally had visited Kashmir on October 28, three days prior to her assassination. Sonia went on a shikara ride in Dal Lake and later did shopping on the Boulevard. Initially she had desired to live in a houseboat for a night but it was cancelled for want of adequate heating arrangements. A handicrafts showroom owner had refused to accept payment for the items she purchased but she insisted and refused to accept it free. She did not permit the security officials to close the routine movement of people and traffic when she was strolling on the Boulevard.


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