August 2006 News

PDP wants more people-to-people contact

19 August 2006
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: The People's Democratic Party has advocated new confidence-building measures for strengthening relations across the Line of Control. Senior PDP leader and Minister for Forests, Housing and Urban Development, Tariq Hameed Qarrah, who represented the party at a meeting of the Prime Minister's Working Group on strengthening relations across the LoC, told mediapersons at the conclusion of the meeting that the PDP suggested visits by the legislators and other people's representatives from both parts of Jammu and Kashmir to promote free exchange of views. Such a move, he said would not only remove the decades-old misconceptions, but would also create a new environment to build bridges of friendship. The PDP has also suggested frequent exchange of media persons, cultural troupes, students, trade delegations, pilgrims and tourists. Frequent movement Stressing the need for expanding and institutionalising people-to-people contact, Mr. Qarrah said the movement of the people through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote roads be made more frequent and less cumbersome. Travel via these routes should be made free to people on a permit system on the pattern of the India-Nepal route. The PDP, he said, also suggested opening of more traditional cross-LoC travel and trade links such as Lipa Valley, Tanghdar, Karnah, Kargil and Suchetgarh to promote economic integration. The meeting was chaired by former diplomat M.K. Rasgotra. Mr. Qarrah said the PDP suggested that the old Silk Route connecting the sub-continent with central Asia be re-christened the Gas Route, providing energy connectivity to the whole region via Jammu and Kashmir. The move would not only boost the economic prosperity of the countries in the region, but also raise their stakes in Jammu and Kashmir's peace. Trade in the region cold be enhanced by declaring it a free trade zone. The Chambers of Commerce and Industry from both sides should interact frequently, he said. He said trade delegations should be allowed to hold fairs on both sides to promote goods and products. Greater economic integration in the region would pave the way for political dividends. Joint mechanism Keeping with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's aim to work out a consultative mechanism for both parts of Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP suggested a joint mechanism, first at the non-government level, on disaster management, disease management and environment management. He said after working out the details at the non-government level, this cooperation could be expanded at the Government level in the sectors such as water resources, horticulture, forests and tourism. Stressing the need for making Jammu and Kashmir a hub of economic, educational and cultural cooperation, the party suggested the setting up of a SAARC University and SAARC Handicraft Centre.


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