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Joint management not a dirty phrase

Azad does not agree to Musharraf's idea of joint management in Jammu and Kashmir, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 04:18 IST
Arun Joshi

After all, joint management is not a dirty phrase. There is a palatable side to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's idea of the joint management. Kashmiri leadership has effectively conveyed to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee who travels to Pakistan this weekend.

External Affairs Minister has been asked to explore the mindset of Pakistan leadership of having joint management in the fields of tourism, trade, culture, environment and natural resources.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was the first leader to talk boldly on this issue with Hindustan Times on December 31, 2006. Others have followed it up.

This is seen as a formidable step toward seeking a lasting solution of nearly six-decade old Kashmir problem.

But Azad had made it clear that there could be neither administrative nor military joint management of India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

"I don't think that any head of the state or the government and a person of stature of (Pakistan) President Pervez Musharraf would ever think of any joint administrative or military management for a state like Jammu and Kashmir," Azad had told Hindustan Times. "That is neither possible nor practical."

" A joint management to oversee promotion of tourism, trade, cultural exchanges and water resources in Jammu and Kashmir is possible. It is practical too."

He repeated this plea during his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister.

"This would benefit the two nations and also all the regions of the state (Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas."

"If the idea is to find a solution, then joint management should confine to these areas, which are practical.”

"And we (India and Pakistan) work harder within these parameters, I don't think that there should be any problem with Government of India and Pakistan in finding a long lasting solution of Kashmir issue."

PDP leaders- Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti- have argued on the similar lines. They strongly advocated for " evolving joint institutional mechanism in the areas of tourism, water resources, environment, and culture and disaster management in both parts of Jammu and Kashmir."

A beginning in this direction, they said could be made by opening all the cross-LoC religious places for pilgrim tourism. "Free cross-LoC movement of pilgrims from various religions should be permitted to different religious places in all the three parts of Jammu and Kashmir," the father daughter duo told Mukherjee.

They said besides opening Kailash Mansarover road via Ladakh, the Hindu pilgrims should be allowed to visit the Sharda temple on river Neelam across the LoC.

The PDP leaders also stressed the need for fully opening the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote roads for free movement of people and goods besides opening Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu and Bandipora-Gilgit roads for people and goods.

Though Kashmiri separatists have not met Mukherjee, they too are keen that beginning may be made through such measures. "Building contacts would be good thing to happen," says Shabir Shah, leader of Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq too favours such measures between the two sides of the state currently divided by Line of Control.

BJP, however, is the only party that sees something sinister in it. Party's state unit president Ashok Khajuria said: "It is a surrender and giving a front door access to Pakistan to enter Jammu and Kashmir." But that is a minority view in the state.

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First Published: Jan 09, 2007 04:18 IST