CM Mehbooba asks: Why can't JK be part of CPEC?

CM Mehbooba asks: Why can't JK be part of CPEC?

Says should not shy away from taking bold steps like AFSPA revocation

J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday came out in support of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, saying it’s time to “move beyond border skirmishes” to be partners in economic growth and also the partners in projects like the CPEC.

Speaking at a seminar here, Mehbooba described Jammu and Kashmir as the “Gateway to Central Asia.”

“J&K could become a corridor of economic activity in the region and the country could take huge benefit of the economic activities going on across the Line of Control. Why can’t we be partners in economic growth and share the benefits of projects like the CPEC. Let us move beyond skirmishes,” she said, addressing intellectuals, academics and public policy planners during the seminar.  

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a framework of regional connectivity, according to its website. The CPEC, it says, will not only benefit China and Pakistan but will have positive impact on Iran, Afghanistan, India, Central Asian Republic, and the region.

Appealing people of India to help in “building bridges of trust” in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba strongly advocated for opening of more routes across LoC and initiation of a political process to address the challenges confronting the state.

The Chief Minister said fostering cooperation across LoC would not only bring political stability across the region but “enhance” the stakes of local people in peace. “It would make the region a hub of emerging economic opportunities leading to cooperation in trade, commerce, tourism and adventure across the region,” she added. She also sought opening of historic routes including Jammu-Sialkote to “give the local people a stake in peace and development.”

J&K Governor N N Vohra chaired the session where speakers included Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, ESL Narsimhan and Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh.

Mehbooba also pitched for undertaking more state-specific Confidence Building Measures including dialogue with all shades of opinion to ensure that no segment of population is left out in the “march” of growth and prosperity.

“Any grievance if left unattended bleeds the whole system,” she said, appealing to build a constituency for peace and dialogue across the country.

Appreciating the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his “inclusive vision on Jammu and Kashmir”, the Chief Minister said during his tenure Vajpayee worked on both internal and external dimensions of the challenges confronting J&K and “conducted an honourable outreach, resulting in an environment of peace and relaxation among the people.”

“And in this context when late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed raised the demand of opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in 2003, it was positively reciprocated and consequently graph of violence in the state fell down and focus shifted on good governance,” she said.

She expressed optimism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is credited with taking very bold decisions would further carry forward this vision to usher the state and the region in an era of peace, stability and prosperity.

Replying to a question by, Mehbooba favoured inclusion of more goods in the list of items being traded across LoC. She said her Government is also working on providing proper facilities of banking to the cross LoC trading activities.

The Chief Minister said the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ reached between the two parties in Jammu & Kashmir has received the backing of the entire country and whatever agreed upon in the document can be and would be implemented in a phased manner. “We should not shy away from taking bold steps like AFSPA revocation from certain areas to begin with,” she said, adding that experiences have shown that governance alone cannot win over people and it has to be backed by a substantive political process on the ground.

Mehbooba pitched for revocation of AFSPA, saying she required a "window of peace" for ensuring good governance to "shrink the space" occupied by militants.

She said PDP and BJP had come together on an Agenda of Alliance which included revocation of AFSPA.

"We should not shy away from revocation of AFSPA. When things improve, why not?" she said.

"We don’t shy away when situation goes bad. We don’t shy away from calling more forces…We ask army to be more proactive, but when the situation improves, we should not shy away from the fact we need to start revocation of AFSPA from some places and see what is the impact," she said while addressing the seminar, organized by India Foundation, a think tank run by Shaurya Doval, the son of National Security Advisor A K Doval.  Four Union Ministers and BJP leaders, including party general secretary Ram Madhav, are on its board.

She also said when the situation improves, there was a need for shifting security camps "away from public".

Referring to her brother Tassaduq, who has been declared PDP candidate for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat vacated by her, Mufti said her brother "wants to see our kids chasing birds and butterflies rather than have stones in their hands".

Tassaduq is a cinematographer and has been part of Bollywood hits like ‘Omkara’.

"We have used pellet guns, guns, hand grenades, teargas. We can’t continue with that. They (the protesters) are part of India. Kashmir is the jewel in India’s crown," she said.

Appealing for a "window of peace", she said, "Good governance helps in shrinking the space of terrorists. Please give me that."

She said the Indus Water Treaty being discriminatory to the State, return of power projects should also be thought to compensate the State for its losses. (with PTI inputs)