June 2004 News

Self-erected barriers between India, Pakistan should go: Mufti

16 June 2004
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: Besides concentrating on development, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, is focusing on broader issues involving greater interaction between the people on both sides of Kashmir as also with Pakistan to foster better understanding for resolving the crisis. In an exclusive interview with The Hindu , the Mufti said development or economic reconstruction is a process, which has its own momentum, but 'to remove self-erected barriers between India and Pakistan, particularly the two parts of Kashmir, should be given top priority.' Hostilities never pay and continue to be a stumbling block in restoration of relations, he said, adding that with the renewed initiatives in November last the people in both countries have started understanding the importance of the peace process. The Chief Minister detailed his seriousness in pursuing this 'important agenda' and said he had taken up the case of the three priests from Pakistan, who are keen to take part in the Sindhu Darshan at Leh on July 18, with the Union Home Minister today. They were awaiting the Home Ministry's clearance, while the State Government has given them the no objection certificate. 'Why should the process for allowing a Pakistani to visit Kashmir be so cumbersome,' he asked. It gives a feeling that Jammu and Kashmir is an isolated place for those with whom we share borders and not for those who live far away from us. 'Let them (people from across) come and enjoy their stay in Kashmir like our countrymen do. It will help building an atmosphere, which even is not possible at the level of dialogue between political leadership,' he said. The Mufti argued that those who come to kill people here need no permission, but those who want to build relations are being stopped on one pretext or the other. The Chief Minister dismissed criticism about the People's Democratic Party's slogan of opening the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road. 'This is a conscious decision we have taken to unite the people of two parts of Kashmir only which can bring peace to this region. They (people) do not know what is happening here or there and are being hoodwinked by politicians. Let them see for themselves. There is no harm,' he said. Government stable Mr. Sayeed dismissed reports that the coalition Government was unstable and also the possibility of the Congress joining hands with the National Conference. 'Our Government is stable and there is not even a remote threat as we work in complete agreement,' he said, stressing that differences were the essence of a democratic set-up. The coalition Government had restored the people's confidence to a great extent, and, on the development front too 'we are not lagging behind.' He disagreed that the much-awaited reshuffle in the Government had created confusion in political and administrative circles. 'Two Congress Ministers have to resign and we are waiting for the final word from the Congress leadership and it will take place,' he said. On the talks with the Hurriyat, the Mufti was hopeful of broadening the process. 'It will go on and the UPA Government is also keen to continue with the talks,' he said. The State would also impress upon the Centre to invite all those who are out of its ambit. 'This will strengthen the process and help in achieving better results.'


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