London, Nov 11: Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan government must to do some soul searching on India’s legitimate concerns to make way for a process of engagement on Kashmir, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has said.
The senior Kashmiri politician said that while a one-off summit-based approach is not the answer, any hopes of a proper dialogue on the issue, “insulated from forces that are inimical to a dialogue on both sides of the border”, would have to wait to be realised at the end of India’s general election cycle in May 2019.
“While we are going through our election process, I think Pakistan needs to do a bit of soul searching in terms of addressing legitimate concerns that India has,” he said.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, who was in London to participate in an event organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) around changing the narratives within the India-Pakistan bilateral context, said the Pakistan government’s decisions such as letting Hafiz Saeed “roam free” had proved a setback to the much-needed confidence building measures.
“The recent decision of the Imran Khan government to release 20 stamps on Kashmir does not help, when instead of confidence building measures we have steps that break confidence,” Abdullah said on the sidelines of the event in London on Friday.
The release of some 20 postal stamps, glorifying Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani and others, by Pakistan was one of the reasons India cited to call of a proposed meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in New York in September.
“Pakistan is our neighbour; whatever concerns we have with Pakistan, we have accepted that war is not an option. So, the only option available to us is talks. We need to resolve our differences through dialogue. But for that, at some stage, Pakistan will also have to take India’s concerns on board,” he said.
Abdullah also lamented the “vast gap” between the Government of India and its representative in Jammu and Kashmir – Governor Satya Pal Malik, and the youth of J&K, which needs to be narrowed urgently.
He said: “The youth of Jammu and Kashmir are perhaps more alienated today than they have been since the early 1990s; when educated youngsters and people with secure jobs are joining the ranks of militancy. And that’s a very worrying sign.
“At the moment, it is about hoping that some smaller corrective measures can be taken now to reduce the levels of alienation, with a higher degree of engagement once we are through with this election cycle.”
AS Dulat, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Special Director and former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief who was among the participants at the IISS event, also expressed hope that dialogue would be re-initiated between India and Pakistan soon.
“We should talk and never stop talking. I remain optimistic on a solution in Kashmir,” said Dulat, who pointed to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula dating back to 2006 as a “good starting point”.
“If that agreement had been worked out between (Gen Pervez) Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh, my assessment is that we would have had at least 15 years of peace in Kashmir,” he said.
Congress party spokesperson Manish Tewari explained that the aim of the London event was to explore the building blocks of a narrative which can correct perceptions that India and Pakistan have about each other.
“There is a feeling that confidence-building measures and the creation of a positive narrative have to precede conflict resolution. It is a step by step process and every incremental step would then add up to a whole,” he said.
Other speakers at the event, including Pakistan-based ‘The News’ daily Editor Aamir Ghauri, proposed exchange programmes for Indian and Pakistani journalists and a freer flow of people on both sides of the border to foster greater understanding.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.