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J&K hopes for more openings of cross border routes

Jammu and Kashmir pins its hopes on the opening of cross border routes and starting of trade, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2007 17:49 IST
Arun Joshi

The two cross-LoC routes, Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkote have laid down the basis for soft borders in Jammu and Kashmir, and some forward movement is expected during the two-day visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Pakistan that began on Saturday.

"We expect Mukherjee's visit would bring more good tidings for all of us, in Jammu and Kashmir," Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who has been in touch on daily basis with Pranab Mukherjee for the past one month, told Hindustan Times.

"I am hopeful that there would be a positive outcome and more steps would be undertaken to make the borders irrelevant. We are keen to open our borders for people to people contract and also for promoting the trade." This is in pursuance of the goal of the " lines on the map" border.

"The opening of more cross-border routes orders will lay the basis for a lasting solution of Kashmir crisis," Azad said, as he underscored the need for a beginning with a joint management in promotion of tourism, trade, water and cultural exchanges.

Jammu and Kashmir has pinned its hopes on the opening of cross border routes and starting of trade on the two already opened since April 7, 2005. The opening of the two routes was termed as the most important and substantial gains in the State, which are visible on the ground. In the past, no accord has brought things so pleasing, so close to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

"We have moved forward, and we hope to move forward further," Chief Minister said.

All eyes in Jammu and Kashmir are fixed on as to what happens on the opening of Kargil-Skardu, Suchetgarh-Sialokote, and Jhangar-Mirpur routes. Knowing that the peoples' sentiments and economy of the state is inextricably linked with the opening of more routes and cross border routes, the leadership in the state has given an unequivocal support for more openings and trade.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is a die-hard optimist on this count. Expressing hope for better out come of the Foreign Ministers level talks between India and Pakistan, she said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are optimistic for long lasting and dignified peace in the trouble torn State.

She said the past four years have witnessed changes of great importance and substance in Jammu and Kashmir, both on the political and developmental fronts.

"The developing of all-weather transport links between Jammu and Kashmir and rest of the country, connecting the divided parts of the State through the traditional cross-border and cross-LoC road links and initiating sub-regional integration could not only facilitate peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem, but would significantly contribute to the region's economic fortunes."

According to her, taking advantage of its natural location, Jammu and Kashmir could become a stepping-stone towards forging a new economic alliance in the region. "A network of existing and new roads connecting India and Pakistan through Jammu and Kashmir would not only open up some of the most spectacular parts of the world to tourism but would also generate new economic activity in the region."

"Not only Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote Roads that have already been opened for restricted movement of divided families, all the traditional road links including Suchetgarh-Sialkote road, Kargil-Skardu road need to be opened and all such routes should be allowed to use by common people along LOC for promotion of tourism and trade."

It is here where the importance of Pranab's visit to Jammu and Kashmir and its leadership lies. They want more openings and more peace, knowing that only open windows bring solution. The closed doors and minds in the past have brought only misery and frustration.

Pranab's Saturday visit has rekindled their hopes.

First Published: Jan 13, 2007 17:49 IST