ANANTNAG, Aug 18: Welcoming Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s vision to boost intra-SAARC physical connectivity, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President and Member Parliament, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said, the forum for South Asian Cooperation can’t realize its full potential unless India and Pakistan end their decades old hostilities and build a cooperative relationship around Jammu and Kashmir. She said J&K could become a bridge in this new paradigm of intra-SAARC connectivity instead of remaining a bone of contention in the region.
“By boosting connectivity between South Asian countries, SAARC will not only gain relevance but strength as well,” Ms Mehbooba said while addressing a PDP workers convention here.
“While the SAARC vision is rooted in security, economic development and global aspirations of the member states, and in the transformation of a region that is central to our destiny, it can’t happen in isolation and necessitates a cooperative relationship between India and Pakistan with Jammu and Kashmir becoming a hub of new economic collaboration in the region,” she said.
PDP, she said, visualizes and is striving for a space of dignity and opportunity for the people of Jammu & Kashmir in a larger paradigm of friendship between India and Pakistan. “We cannot visualize any alternative to reconciliation and dialogue between our country and Pakistan,” she said and added that the hostility between the two countries has hit the people of J&K the hardest and the incidents on the borders and LoC should keep reminding the two countries the inevitability of sitting across the table to find a just and pragmatic solution to all the contentious issues.
Expressing grief and shock over the recent civilian killings in Balakote sector of district Poonch in shelling from across the border, Ms Mehbooba said for the people of Jammu and Kashmir peace along the borders is of crucial importance as we are in the direct line of fire and suffer the most in such tragic circumstances. “While I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of innocent victims of cross-border shelling, I would request the stakeholders to de-escalate the tension and allow the people of the State to live in peace.
Mufti said whatever the reasons for hardening of stances and attempts by the vested interests to subvert the peace process, there is, however, no substitute to the reconciliatory policy as was done in 2003. “With a decisive mandate at his back Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi has the opportunity to revive the process of reconciliation in the sub-continent,” she said and added that the prevailing alarming situation along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir necessitates the urgency of reviving the composite dialogue process, sooner the better.
Ms Mehbooba said the significant reconciliatory measures taken between 2002 and 2005 in and around Jammu and Kashmir, both on internal and external fronts, had not only helped improve the security scenario in the region, but within the State as well. “At a time when we are envisioning free movement of people and goods across the borders in South Asian region, J&K can’t afford to slide into another gloomy era of uncertainty and devastation.
She said the ceasefire of 2003, had not only given the much-needed relief to the people living along the borders, but it had, as well, provided the broader umbrella for the peace process to flourish. “The ceasefire brought, after decades of tension and destruction, relief and normalcy into the lives of people residing in the State’s forward areas,” she said and added that at the same time it also made historic initiatives like opening up of LOC for bus service possible in J&K.
“After over decades of agony, we had started seeing a ray of hope in the peace process, which, unfortunately, is under severe threat today,” she said and expressed the hope that the dark shadows of pessimism cast over the peace process will not jeopardize the region’s security and stability as any such scenario would have disastrous consequences for the people living in the region.
“We in Jammu & Kashmir understand better what the ordeal of violence is, as it has been our fate to live through and survive its frightening hazards,” Ms Mehbooba said and added that for the people of Jammu & Kashmir, suffering more than two decades of turmoil, has been a long, dark experience, bloody at times and frustrating at almost every step.
The PDP President said the plethora of problems facing the state today, including security concerns, cynicism, alienation, lack of connectivity, economic deprivation, development deficit, rebuilding of flood-hit infrastructure, resource constraints, unemployment and social corrosion have to be taken head-on and the country’s leadership will have to take bold political and economic initiatives to address the security and developmental concerns of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and liberate them from the mentality of psychological and geographical siege. “PDP strongly believes that nothing is valid and should be happening for Jammu & Kashmir except with the active involvement of its people,” she said.
Minister for Horticulture, Hajj and Auqaf, A R Veeri, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Abdul Haq, Member Parliament, Nazir Ahmad Laway, legislators, Syed Farooq Ahmad Indrabi and Abdul Rahim Rather, PDP General Secretary, Rafi Ahmad Mir, PDP Chief Spokesman, Dr Mehboob Beg, Political Advisor to PDP President, Peerzada Mansoor Hussain, PDP Coordinator for South Kashmir, Mufti Sajad, and PDP District President for Anantnag, Advocate Javaid Sheikh also addressed the convention.