Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed Thursday said Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was the “only road” that would lead to peace in Jammu and Kashmir as he asked New Delhi to promote people-to-people contact beyond the divided families across the Line of Control (LoC).
“Today when guns are roaring on borders from Kathua to Poonch, I can see light in the dark tunnel. We laid the foundation of this road (Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road) in 2004. There is no other road to peace but this and I have come here to resolve to take this initiative further,” Mufti said, addressing gathering of traders at Trade Facilitation Center (TFC) here after laying foundation for phase-II of the Center.
The Cross-LOC travel was started between divided parts of Kashmir in 2005 during the Sayeed-led PDP-Congress Government, after more than 50 years. It was followed by the trade activity between two parts of Kashmir in 2008.
Mufti said in 2004, the former Prime Minister AtalBihariVajpyaee-led NDA government agreed to open LoC for travel and trade when J&K was a land locked region.
“I had started a journey for peace in 2004 from here. Today I have again come here and I won’t rest till I realize this dream for peace and prosperity,” said Sayeed.
While the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad on Kashmir side, and Poonch and Rawlakote on Jammu side, runs once a week, the trade is being carried four days a week at present.
“There has been no attempt in the past 10 years to take the initiatives forward after I left the government in 2005,” Sayeed said.
Sayeed said the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road wasn’t meant for bringing together the divided families only but also to allow a vibrant people-to-people contact across the LoC.
“I will make all efforts to ensure that everybody from a young person to elderly to a trader should be allowed to travel on this road,” said Sayeed. “There is nothing wrong in allowing people to meet.”
The Chief Minister said when the bus service was started in 2005, apprehensions were being raised that it would be misused.
“Nothing has happened till date. We have to trust people of Jammu and Kashmir who showed the way in 1947. There is a trust deficit and it has to be addressed,” Sayeed said.
He said J&K has a special identity but a “perception” was being created about the state. “The reality is something different but it is shown differently… J&K showed the way when India got divided,” Sayeed said.
Sayeed said he was optimistic that there would be a thaw in the present situation on borders. “A reconciliatory process will follow. But it takes time,” he said.
Supporting number of tradable items should be increased in the cross-LOC trade, the Chief Minister said he would take up the issue of expanding the activity with New Delhi.
“There is nothing wrong if items like Kashmiri carpets, paper-machie and wood carving are added to the list from this side and similarly more items are added from that side,” said Sayeed. “I will personally take it up with New Delhi.”
Though 21 items had been listed for trade from either side, the number has gone down over the years owing to ban on some items.
Sayeed termed the non-availability of banking and communication facilities as major issues in the cross-LOC trade. “These issues have to be seen,” he said.
The trade is presently going on as a barter system.
The Chief Minister also asked New Delhi to permit a trade delegation from this side of Kashmir to travel across the LoC. Soon after the activity started in 2008, a trade delegation from Pakistan administered Kashmir had visited this side of Kashmir.
ON NSA TALKS
Welcoming the upcoming meeting between National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan, Sayeed said he was hopeful that top priority would be given to “terrorism”.
“There is nothing like good terrorist or a bad terrorist,” Sayeed said.
The Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart AjitDoval in New Delhi on August 24.
BJP too bats for cross LoC travel, trade
Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh batted for strengthening people-to-people contact and trade across LoC
“This is the only way to narrow differences. When people and traders from two sides will travel and interact, it will create a good atmosphere and narrow the differences,” said Singh.
Singh’s statement is an apparent change in the stand of BJP which has in the past opposed any Confidence Building Measure between India and Pakistan.
Singh even went further to say that India and Pakistan should forget animosity and “come together as was the case before 1947.”
“We (India and Pakistan) were one before 1947. Can’t we again come together? Our future generations will not forgive us if we keep fighting,” said Singh.
The Deputy CM said time has come for the neighboring countries to move forward. “The initiatives taken 10 years ago need to be strengthened. When people and traders will travel across LOC, it will create a good atmosphere and narrow bring the differences,” he said.
Singh appreciated the role played by the Chief Minister in trying to bring close two regions of the state after PDP and BJP decided to forge an alliance in J&K.
“The steps taken by Mufti sahib and national leadership have helped to bring north and south poles together. It is not only the coalition between two parties but a step to bring people and the three regions of the state close to each other,” said Singh.
Ahead of the crucial NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, Sayeed Thursday hoped that the two national security advisors would find a way to end tension along the border.
“There is tension along the borders in the state… People are fleeing because of shelling. I hope the NSA-level meeting evolves a strategy to stop all this,” Sayeed told reporters at Kaman Post along the LoC in Uri sector.
Sayeed, who was accompanied by deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, said he prayed for the success of talks between NSA AjitDoval and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaz Aziz,
“I pray for success of the NSA-level talks between AjitDoval and Sartaj Aziz. The focus should be on these talks and I welcome (it),” he said.
Singh said he wanted to convey the message of peace to Pakistan from ‘AmanSetu’ (Kaman Post) along the LoC. “We want to convey a message of peace to our neighbour. They should stop these killings (along the LoC),” he said.
Sayeed welcomed the move by India and Pakistan to resume the dialogue process, but described as “most disturbing” the persistent shelling along the International Border and the LoC in which “precious and innocent human lives have been lost”.
“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 said while addressing a gathering at Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre.
Expressing concern over continued instability in the region, Sayeedfavoured a joint mechanism between India and Pakistan to “counter the menace of terrorism.”
He asserted that there is “no good or bad terrorists as they are all enemies of humanity”.
The Chief Minister expressed hope that New Delhi and Islamabad will break ice in the upcoming NSA-level talks.
Recalling Modi’s swearing-in ceremony which was attended by Sharif, Sayeed praised the Prime Minister for taking a lead in making “SAARC an engine of growth, just what frontline nations did in bringing Europe together under one umbrella”.
“I have seen an urge in Prime Minister NarendraModi to improve relations with all SAARC nations, including Pakistan,” he added.
Calling himself a born optimist, Sayeed said, “I see light in darkness which seems to be around. I want to make a new beginning for making J&K an abode of peace and harmony in the country.” PTI