The first step towards making borders irrelevant between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir has been taken, with one of the working groups on Jammu and Kashmir constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recommending an unrestricted movement of people on the two sides of the LoC that divides the state between India and Pakistan.
The working group deliberating on cross — LoC issues — one of the five working groups constituted by the prime minister on Jammu and Kashmir at the conclusion of the second round table conference on J&K in Srinagar in May 2006 — has asked the federal government to take immediate steps to open the borders between two Kashmirs (J&K and PoK) for free flow of people.
"This is the recommendation of our working group to prime minister," chairman of the group MK Rasgotra, a former foreign secretary, said at the conclusion of the last meeting of the working group on late Tuesday evening.
This recommendation is aimed at arming the Centre with a document of popular will to initiate the process of opening of borders — in the fashion prime minister and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have advocated in the recent months. Both are votaries of reducing borders to a "line on map".
Even though separatists were not part of the working group, they too are in favour of opening of borders". There should be no restrictions and no barriers on the LoC. Let people move freely," All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, currently in Oslo, Norway, has asked Delhi and Islamabad on a number of occasions.
Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Shah wants " no barriers" between two parts of Kashmir.
Rasgotra said that the group has concluded its meetings and with unanimity framed recommendations with regard to strengthening relations between the people living across LoC.
"No difference or dissent has been expressed by any member and recommendations evolved are unanimous."
He said besides recommending opening of eight or more crossing points at various places of LoC suggestions for softening of procedures for travelling across LoC have also been finalised.
He said recommendations with regard to interaction between students, teachers at college and university levels and exchange of students and teachers also form part of recommendations. The group has also come up with the recommendation of upgrading Uri-Muzaffarabad and other traditional road links.
These recommendations have been compiled and would be submitted to prime minister soon.
The participants at the meeting explained their viewpoints and put forth suggestions with regard to strengthening the relations across LoC and creating palatable and conducive atmosphere for people to people contacts, visits of people across LoC and facilitating other allied aspects intending to strengthen the relations and create peace.
Although the main opposition party, National Conference, did not take part in the deliberations, its stand on the issue is in line with the other parties. It is insisting on open borders and unrestricted movement.
National Conference patron and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has called for "open borders". "That would help build trust and can pave way for Kashmir solution," he had told Hindustan Times in a recent interview.
This reflects a popular will of the people of the state, as it was reflected in Rasgotra's observation that there was " no dissent" on the issue.
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