Restore Trade Across LoC: Mufti
31 July 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Former Chief Minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today stressed the need for immediate restoration of trade, travel and tourism across the Line of Control (LoC). 'A Jammu and Kashmir centric cross LoC economic dimension to the ongoing peace process would facilitate the much needed political stability in the region,' he told a function organised on the PDP's foundation day celebrations in Baramulla town in north Kashmir. The PDP leader made it clear that the key to the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) lies in cross LoC trade. 'SAFTA will become a reality, the day trucks start rolling on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road,' he added. Mr Sayeed said the tardy follow up of last year announcement by India and Pakistan to start trade through the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road was brewing cynicism and disinterest among the people of the State, who led the peace process from the front. The people of two parts of the State have to be allowed to interact fully and freely at social, cultural and business levels to weaken the forces of ignorance and obscurantism that fuel the fires of alienation, he added. Welcoming the proposed decision by Islamabad and New Delhi to allow movement of trucks through Wagah, the former Chief Minister said Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, Suchetgarh-Sialkote and Kargil-Skardu roads should have ideally taken precedence over other routes for such activities. He said revival of the traditional synergies across the LoC would not only boost the conventional economic activity in the State, but also allow the people to reap the immense benefits of globalisation and economic liberalisation, yet to touch this part of the world. 'Not only the working group on cross-LoC Confidence Building process headed by former Foreign Secretary M K Rasgotra, but even the Federation of Indian Exporters Organization (FIEO), in its latest report, has strongly advocated opening up of LoC for trade.' Mr Sayeed observed with dismay that no substantial progress has been made on this count so far and stressed the need for ending Kashmir's economic isolation. Free flow of ideas, goods, services and people across the LoC as enumerated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make Jammu and Kashmir not only a hub of economic activity, but also a bridge of progress for the whole sub-continent as it would provide India and Pakistan easier access to huge markets and energy sources in the Central Asian region, he added. Hailing the recent positive statements from highest levels in Islamabad and New Delhi regarding peace process, Mr Sayeed said the inevitability of marching ahead on path of reconciliation has now become evident from the fact that despite some trouble in our neighborhood, leadership of both the countries have exhibited will and determination to carry forward reconciliation and confidence building process in right spirit. 'I am confident that the time is not far away when peace and prosperity would become a permanent feature of the subcontinent,' he added. Pointing out that the problem of unemployment is a matter of grave concern, he said in the states like Jammu & Kashmir there is a widespread tendency for Government jobs, given the high visibility of the Government and almost negligent existence of a vibrant private sector. He said because of certain lopsided policies, sectors outside the Government have not flourished at the desired level and are not perceived to hold any promise either. 'We have to break this vicious circle,' he said and added that after all J&K has tremendous potential in horticulture, agriculture, food processing, floriculture, handicrafts, tourism and information technology. 'Only challenge is to contemporarise traditional products through modern technology and unlock vast positive engagement opportunities such sectors offer,' he said and added that instead of allowing the people to look up to the Government for jobs, we have to help them empower themselves. Sayeed also called for speeding up the work on four-laning of National Highway upto Uri, construction of Devanbagh bridge, construction of mini hydel power project at Shranz and North Campus of the Kashmir University at Delina and conservation and beautification of Wullar Lake. Senior PDP leaders Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Mohammad Dilawar Mir, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Basharat Bukhari and Javed Ahmad Dar also addressed the function.