Australian delegation on appraisal trip to Kashmir

Need to take tangible steps for removing adverse travel advisories: CM

Australian delegation on appraisal trip to KashmirA high-profile Australian delegation is currently visiting Jammu and Kashmir for first-hand appraisal about the situation in the State to help Australian government decide over revoking travel advisory to the conflict-hit region.
Advisor to the J&K chief minister, Amitabh Mattoo, said the delegation will collect vital feedback which will help the Australian government rethink on its advisory against travelling to J&K.
“The purpose of the exposure visit is to make the delegation take firsthand appraisal about J&K as a safe destination to travel to,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed interacted with the delegation at a luncheon meeting.  Mufti stressed on the need for taking tangible steps towards removing adverse travel advisories.
Seeking greater cooperation in key areas like skill development, health and education, he said transfer of knowledge about best practices from Australia will provide substance to J&K government’s endeavours to strengthen these sectors.
“It will help us evaluate the measures we have taken and facilitate corrective measures wherever necessary,” the chief minister told the delegation members most of whom are on their maiden trip to India.
The Australian delegation comprises of Chairman, Australia India Institute, Craig Jeffery, Chairman Bandigo Bank, Robert Johansson, Foreign Editor, The Australian, Greg Sheridan, Senator and former Australian Finance Minister, Penelope Ying Yen Wong, former Premier of Victoria, Edward Norman Baillieu, Chairman, Newscorp Australia, Penelope Fowler, Vice Chancellor, La Trobe University, Australia, John Dewar, Senator Tasmania, Lisa Maria Singh and First Secretary in the Australian High Commission, Tanya Shanti Spisbah.
Lisa Maria Singh is the only senator of Indian origin in the Australian Parliament while Penelope Fowler is the niece of media baron and owner of Newscorp, Rupert Murdoch.  Minister for Finance & Culture, Haseeb Drabu and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas were also present on the occasion.
The Chief Minister later gave an interview to the Foreign Editor, The Australian, Greg Sheridan wherein he shared his thoughts about varied issues including the relations between India and Pakistan, cross-LoC trade and travel and his party PDP’s alliance with BJP.
 “You can change friends, not neighbours. Gun is no solution. All issues between India and Pakistan have to be resolved across the table. In my first tenure as Chief Minister, there was perceptible improvement in relations and there were no skirmishes on borders,” Mufti told Sheridan.
 “The cross-LoC trade and travel between India and Pakistan is the biggest confidence building measure. We have two trade and travel points at Uri-Salamabad in Kashmir and Chakan da Bagh in Jammu division and we are working to broaden the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel further,” he added.
The chief minister said PDP’s coalition with BJP gives government a truly representative character, which reflects its multicultural ethos. “While we swept Kashmir, BJP won majority in Jammu. Our coalition is governed by the Agenda of the Alliance,” he said.
Mufti said horticulture, handicraft and tourism, both leisure and pilgrim, are three key areas that drive J&K’s economy. “The whole country is market for India, especially its 30-crore strong middle class.”
He said J&K can match any international leisure destination. “There is a need to change negative perception and work towards removing adverse travel advisories. “Seeing is believing. Please see things for yourselves. While footfall of tourists in Kashmir is from across the globe, Leh is popular amongst foreign travellers more, especially from South East nations. Jammu receives a large number of pilgrim tourists,” he said in the interview.

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