Continuing his interaction with J&K leaders in preparation for his forthcoming visit to Pakistan, External Affairs Minister held talks with former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.
While Farooq was accompanied by his son and former Union Minister Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti joined his father Sayeed. Mukherjee also met senior Congress leaders Karan Singh and Makhan Lal Fotedar.
Mufti said that both India and Pakistan should exploit the prevailing congenial atmosphere for resolution of Jammu and Kashmir issue and move ahead with a positive frame of mind. In this context, he suggested removing bar that only members of the separated families could travel between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad. More and more people from different walks of life should be allowed to travel across and interact.
The former home minister particularly spoke about starting trade and business activities in the region and demanded that the issue of pilgrimage tourism, particularly to Kashmiri Pandit and Sikh shrines in POK, should also be addressed by the two countries.
The Abdullahs also advocated opening up trade between the two Kashmirs. In this connection they suggested that entire J&K (on both sides of LOC) should be declared as a special economic zone on the lines of Switzerland and Channel Islands to facilitate free movement of businessmen.
Omar, who had one-to-one meeting with President Pervez Musharaf during his visit to Pakistan last year, urged Mukherjee to broach the issue of making Srinagar-Muzzafarabad journey a smooth affair, with his Pak counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri. Also, Omar sought his personal intervention to ensure return of hunderds of Kashmiri youth currently in POK and willing to shun violence.
Earlier, state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had on Saturday held wide-ranging discussions with Mukherjee on Jammu and Kashmir related issues. He had advocated working out a plan for "joint management" of trade, tourism and water resources on both sides of the border for taking the ongoing peace efforts a step further.