Envisioning a greater role for India in the economic growth of the subcontinent, particularly the Kashmir region, former Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was at an advantageous position to herald this change in the era of globalisation.
Sayeed expressed these views during an hour-long meeting with Singh on Wednesday night. This, he stated has been made possible by the significant political changes which the region has witnessed during the last four years. "The changing equations in J&K have opened a window of opportunity for India to work for peace with its neighbours and also on the internal front," he said.
The People's Democratic Party patron suggested free travel and trade within Jammu and Kashmir (on both sides of the LoC) by opening all the traditional routes. "Connecting the divided parts of the state through these routes is vital to the economic growth of the region and achieving lasting peace in the area," he observed.
Drawing the PM's attention to the region's strategic importance, he said J&K could become a stepping stone to achieve a new economic alliance in the area. On the region's tourism potential, he said a road network linking India and Pakistan through J&K would open some of the most spectacular places to the world and generate new economic activity.
He demanded that old road links such as Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu, Bandipora-Gurez-Gilgit and Nowshehra-Mirpur should be opened for free movement. It could be followed by similar links between Ladakh and Lake Mansarovar in Western Tibet or between Ladakh and Xinjiang through Karakoram Pass.
The Mufti demanded immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Infrastructural Development led by C Rangarajan. These include transfer of Dulhasti power project to the state, accelerating work on rail links to the Valley and upgradation of airports.
On the security front, Mufti said the state police should be strengthened and given more responsibility to handle the internal security scene. He expressed concern over the reported harassment of a Kashmiri student in a train and urged Singh to instruct all the states to take steps for prevention of such incidents in future.