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VIDEO: DANKE! German ambassador wins hearts for Kashmir tweets

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jun 11: No protocol, no security detail and no flagged cars: that is how the German Ambassador to India Walter J Lindner toured Kashmir last week.

Breaking from traditions, Lindner embarked on a truly casual visit and posted breathtaking photographs of Kashmir on Twitter which has won many hearts on the social media.

Lindner arrived in Srinagar on June 7 and spent two days in Kashmir. He ensured to make full use of his limited time in exploring the beautiful valley. His official Twitter handle reflects his excitement.

 

Soon after arriving in Srinagar, Lindner uploaded a series of pictures of snow clad mountains and compared the climate of Kashmir with that of New Delhi. “So here we go – from 44 degrees in New Delhi to 24 degrees in a beautiful valley known for its splendid environment, its Moghul gardens, lakes, waterfront and houseboats: the capital of India’s northernmost bigger city, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir: Srinagar,” he tweeted.

German Ambassador started his tour by taking a shikara ride in Dal Lake which he described as “fairy tale”. “Srinagar, also known as `heaven on earth’ – if you take a boat ride on the Dal Lake you know why. Against the backdrop of first Himalaya mountains a lake as picturesque as it gets, houseboats with stunning woodcarvings – and colours right out a fairy tale,” he tweeted.

“…did you know that Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison how to play sitar on one of those boats? Yes, he did 1966….And many Beatles fans started to flock into Kashmir and those houseboats became an icon for a generation of travelers…”

The German Ambassador was all praise for historical architecture in Srinagar city particularly its shrines. “..and amidst that enchanting maze of distinctive pagoda-like roofs of mosques and shrines in old Srinagar you find a breathtaking jewel: the Khanqua-e-Moula mosque, build 1395 by a Sufi saint from Iran, and one of the best examples of Srinagar’s legacy of wooden architecture,” he tweeted after visiting Khanqah-e-Maula.

Lindner concluded his Srinagar tour by tweeting, “No visit to Srinagar without exploring its medieval spell. Its labyrinthine roads, bustling bazaars, iconic wooden bridges, burnt brick buildings with their warm colours and traditionally dressed men and women will linger with every traveler long after one leaves Kashmir…..”

He also posted breathtaking pictures of Sonmarg meadows, which evoked a positive response from his followers.“…too little time during this Srinagar-trip to make it to Leh, but Sonmarg was a good beginning…,” he tweeted.
Mesmerized by the beauty of Kashmir, Lindner termed it as an “incredible place with wonderful people”.

“It’s time to leave Kashmir, return home to today’s 46 degrees in Delhi. Yes, there is a Kashmir of considerable security challenges, but there is also the Kashmir of incredible beauty and wonderful people. A unique place in this world! Here some last impressions before take-off,” he tweeted.

Apparently on an unofficial tour, Lindner visited all these places discretely and even the tourism department wasn’t aware of his stay in Kashmir.“We had no information about him in Kashmir,” said Director Tourism Nisar Ahmad Wani.

The German Ambassador’s tour to the valley evoked huge interest among his followers, who too expressed their desire to visit Kashmir.
Alexi LeFevre, a South Asia Watcher shared the Lindners’ pictures and tweeted, “Congrats @AmbLindnerIndia for your expeditions. This American diplomat is very jealous and enjoying the views!”
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also praised the German Ambassador for promoting tourism of Kashmir.
“Thank you Ambassador @AmbLindnerIndia for visiting Kashmir & appreciating not just the scenic beauty but the warmth of its people. Especially at a time when it’s being written off as a tourist destination,” she tweeted.
Tourism players hope that his projection of Kashmir in positive light would encourage Germany to lift travel advisory for Kashmir.
“He had a firsthand experience of staying in Kashmir. His entire experience might compel his country to lift advisory and encourage more foreigners to visit Kashmir,” said Ashfaq Ahmad Dag, President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir.


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Biz leaders of JK, PaK meet in Tashkent

Appeal India, Pak to resume cross LoC trade

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jun 24: For the first time since the Cross LoC trade was suspended, the business leaders of Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad met in Tashkent and decided to approach the respective governments for early resumption of the trade.

The decision was taken in a three-day conference of the business leaders of both sides of LoC, which is currently underway in the Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Six business leaders representing Chambers of Commerce of Kashmir and Jammu are participating in the conference, which started on Sunday. 

Trade leaders from Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Traders Union Rawalakot are representing the business community of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) in the conference.

 

The three-day meet has been organized by Muzaffarabad-based Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), which works to “promote peace and development at all levels through dialogue, reconciliation and reforms.”

On the second day of the conference on Monday, the traders resolved to convey to their respective governments the need for early resumption of cross LoC trade.

President Kashmir Chamber (KCC&I), Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, while speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Tashkent, said the traders held threadbare deliberations on the resumption and strengthening of the Cross LoC trade.

“It was resolved that all the Chambers will take up the matter related to the reopening of Cross LoC trade with the respective governments,” he said.

On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the Cross-LoC trade in J&K, saying that it was being used for “funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” into the state.

More than 280 traders were hit by the decision. Figures reveal that goods worth Rs 6,900 crore were traded on both sides since the inception of the trade in 2008.

On the alleged transporting of incriminating material through the route, Ahmad said the traders pledged to push their respective governments for framing Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for ensuring greater transparency in the trade.

“We are for the transparency of the trade. Both the countries should frame SOPs wherein necessary measures should be taken to check such activities. It was made amply clear that the traders should concentrate on the trade while as the government must ensure transparency,” he said.

The participants also realised that the suspension of the Cross trade was causing huge losses to the business community on both the sides.

“Traders on both the sides of LoC are incurring huge losses. The Cross LoC trade was the biggest Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. It should be resumed immediately,” said the president, KCC&I.

He said the conference was aimed at exploring all options to ensure hassle-free trade across the border. 

Before suspension, the Cross LoC trade was being carried out for four days a week on both routes—Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote.

Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond the barter system.

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Mehbooba welcomes Hurriyat’s readiness for dialogue

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Srinagar, Jun 24: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed the Hurriyat Conference willingness to hold talks with the Centre saying it was ‘better late than never’.

“Dair aye durust aye [better late than never]. The underlying purpose of the PDP-BJP alliance was to facilitate dialogue between the GoI & all stakeholders. Tried my best to make it happen in my tenure as Chief Minister but relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba said in a tweet.

Mehbooba Mufti was referring to Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s call for a tripartite talk between the Kashmiri leadership, New Delhi and Islamabad for resolution of all issues, including Kashmir.

 

Besides touching on the need for a dialogue during his Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz in his Eid-ul Fitr sermon earlier this month had sought confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan that could facilitate the revival of talks between the two countries.

Governor Satya Pal Malik, while addressing a function in Srinagar on Saturday, had said the Hurriyat had softened its stand and were ready for talks after he took charge of the state in August last year.

“The Hurriyat Conference was not willing to talk. Ram Vilas Paswan was standing at their door (in 2016) but they were not ready to talk. Today, they are ready for talks and want to hold dialogue. There is change in everyone,” Satya Pal Malik said.

The governor’s statement has given rise to speculations that the Centre might be opening dialogue channels with the separatists in Kashmir in near future.

Talks must be held with them: Farooq

Srinagar, Jun 24: Two days after Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Central government, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that talks must be held.

“The Governor says Hurriyat has agreed to talks. Then, talks should be held with them,” Abdullah told the media persons.

Contending that situation in J&K “is changing”, Governor Malik had on June 22 said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Centre.

“The ones who turned back Ram Vilas Paswan from their door, they are now ready for talks. The stone pelting after ‘namaz’ is almost over. We do not like it when a youngster dies,” Malik had said at a function.

“But when a bullet is fired, bullets will be fired in retaliation. That is the reality and this change in stance by them is a welcome sign,” Malik had further added.

He had also acknowledged Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement in which he had expressed concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state.

Within ‘ambit of Constitution’: BJP

Srinagar, Jan 24: BJP’s JK Affairs in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna has said that the Government of India was ready for talks with the Hurriyat ‘within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.’

Khanna also said that this was being done to win the trust of every individual in the state.

“We are open for talks. Hurriyat leaders are own people, they are the residents of J&K so they are most welcome to talk to us including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but within the ambit of Indian constitution,” Khanna said.

Earlier, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that she is relived that Hurriyat has softened their stand regarding talks with the Government of India.

Recently, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s said that Hurriyat is ready for talks.

In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that if Government of India initiates ‘meaningful dialogue’, there will be a ‘positive response’.

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J&K Reservation Bill introduced in LS

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jun 24: People living along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir will get benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in professional courses on par with those living along the Actual Line of Control (ALoC), according to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will replace an ordinance issued by the previous government.

The Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah who was present in the House.

 

Some members from the Opposition wanted to oppose introduction of the bill but speaker Om Birla rejected their demand, saying they had not followed the procedure for doing so.

The bill seeks to provide relief to people living in areas adjoining the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. They can now avail benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.

The bill once passed by Parliament will amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bring persons residing in areas adjoining the IB within the ambit of reservation, on par with those living in areas adjoining the ALoC.

The rules provided for reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories, including residents of areas adjoining ALoC.

Those living in areas adjoining the IB in Jammu and Kashmir were not  included in the ambit of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and Rules, 2005 and were deprived of benefits.

Due to continuous cross-border tensions, people living along the IB suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels residents to move to safer places, which adversely impacts their education as schools and colleges remain closed for long periods.

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