High expectations are riding on Prime minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Jammu and Kashmir later this month, with mainstream political parties hoping that he will initiate steps to address the internal and external dimensions of the Kashmir issue.
"We hope that the Prime Minister's visit will focus on the peace process in the broadest sense. We hope it is not just at the localised level but a dialogue is initiated with the separatists as well as Pakistan," chief spokesman of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Naeem Akhtar said.
The Prime Minister, along with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir on June 25 to inaugurate the railway link connecting Kashmir in north of Pir Panjal Mountain range to Banihal town on the south. This section is vital for linking Kashmir with rest of the country through the ambitious rail project started 10 years ago.
Akhtar said the PDP is hoping that J&K-specific confidence building measures between India and Pakistan will be taken to next level as the recent elections in the neighbouring country have ended the period of uncertainty there.
"The initiatives with Pakistan were held back due to uncertainty there. We hope that the positive changes across the border are harnessed," he said.
Among the wish list of the PDP is extending the cross Line of Control travel for all residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and removing the bottlenecks in the cross-LoC trade.
"We hope that the Prime Minister also addresses the issue of unemployment in the state and alienation among the youth as well. More than ideological aspirations, it is a matter of survival for the youth who have framed in false cases," he said.
Akhtar said Singh should also send a clear message to the people of the state that the next assembly elections, due late next year, will be free and fair.
Ruling National Conference said although the PM's visit was for inaugurating development projects in the state, the party was hopeful that Singh will initiate steps from Kashmir for resolution of the problems of the state.
"Now that there is a change of guard in Pakistan, we hope that the Prime Minister initiates from Kashmir steps for resolution of Kashmir issue," Tanvir Sadiq, NC leader and political secretary to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said.