Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Omer to New Delhi: Time to resolve Kashmir issue

Naseer A Ganai

Srinagar, Oct 13: Without mincing words the Chief Minister Omer Abdullah on Tuesday conveyed to New Delhi to initiate dialogue with all shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir to settle Kashmir issue and asked it to address external dimension of it simultaneously.

Inaugurating two day All India Editors Conference on Social and Infrastructure issue, the Chief Minister described redressal of Social and Infrastructural issues vital for the development of any State. But, he said, in case of Jammu and Kashmir these issues were intertwined with the security and political issues. “All these issues have to be touched upon and discussed together. Otherwise discussion would be incomplete,” Omer said. The Information and Broadcasting Minister Government of India Ambika Soni, the Minority Affairs Minister GOI Salam Khurshid and Minister for New and Renewable Energy Dr Farooq Abdullah were in audience.

Omer reminded the editors who had come from different states and cabinet Ministers of the Government of India the importance of addressing the external and the internal dimensions of Kashmir dispute.

He said the State government has continued its focus to provide five essentials of life water, health, education, power and roads to people and the Central Government has been helping the State government in carrying out its programmes.  “There is no doubt that the Government of India has came to assist the State beyond the call of the duty, whether it is in establishing two central universities or providing extra Rs 1000 crores for annual plan. But focus of the Government of India should be on political aspect of Kashmir issue,” he said. “You can’t divorce Jammu and Kashmir from its politics,” the Chief Minister warned. 

The Chief Minister was all praise for people Jammu and Kashmir and said in past 20 years they have withstood all odds with courage and fortitude. “But whatever has happened has happened. Now we see light after a very long tunnel,” he added. He said 20 years later Kashmiris were battling the same forces with a degree of success and cited decrease in violence related incidents as an example. But, he said, the problem with which the State was grappling must be reflected upon. He said there were attempts to derail the fragile peace in Kashmir. “The voices from New Delhi talk about Taliban in Kashmir which are not seen on the ground,” the Chief Minister said. He said Kashmir was birth place of tourism in India. “Long before Kerela was God’s own country, Kashmir was heaven on earth,” he said, and asked cabinet Minister in New Delhi and media to act with degree of caution when it comes to Kashmir. He said no one wants to keep facts hidden but for every bad story there are five good stories.

He said on Monday there was strike in frontier district of Kupwara. “It was not for Azadi (freedom), it was not for Pakistan, it was not because a militant had died. It was for jobs and it indicates people want to be part of the development,” Omer said. He described 2008 elections as watershed development and said people came out to vote for five essentials of the life and the State government was trying providing them the same. “But the development requires an effort to engage the State on political platform. By political platform, I mean having dialogue with all sections in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “It is not my way to ensure only one voice is heard. There is need of engagement with all sections. Every voice should be heard and consensus should be arrived at settling the issue. It is in the best interest of the State,” he said. “If we seek to divorce social and infrastructure issues with politics and security of State we would reach no where,” he warned.

Omer said people in the State were sponges of information, who doubt everyone and trust no one. “They would listen to All India Radio to know our view. They would then switch to Radio Pakistan to know their view and they would finally listen to BBC for independent opinion. They are politically astute and are aware of everything going in the State. There is niggling issue what is called Kashmir issue and it should be resolved,” he said. Earlier Ambika Soni in her address had complained about getting signals from across the border and had promised to establish high power TV and radio transmitters in the State.

The chief minister said whenever New Delhi started external dialogue it failed to address the internal dimension and when it commenced internal dialogue it failed to look at external dimension resulting in failure of the process. He said every political party has political agenda in the State. “Some are for Autonomy, some for Self-Rule, some are for revocation of 375, and some want more than Autonomy and self-rule. The idea is to engage all shades of opinion for resulted oriented dialogue,” he said.

The Chief Minister lauded all former Chief Ministers of the State Dr Farooq Abdullah Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad for taking the State towards the development and said had he been in Dr Farooq’s position he wouldn’t have constructed the Royal Spring Golf Course given the criticism Dr Abdullah was subjected to. But he said time has vindicated Dr Abdullah’s stand and today Golf Course was major attraction for high-end tourists in Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah, he said, started Gandola cable car project and “Mufti sahib and Azad sahib completed its phase 2nd.”

He said his government would double power generation in State sector. Omer conceded that the State government was facing massive transmission and distribution losses which runs in crores and said his government was trying hard to overcome the problem. He said the State government would provide all service to people and hoped that people would repay it by paying power tariffs. Omer said the State government was facing problem of unemployment and unemployability. But he added concerted efforts are being made by the government to address the issue. He said the government would be opening 18 polytechnique colleges to make the youth skilled.

Even while he was spelling out achievements of his government the chief minister insisted on the dialogue to settle the issue. He concluded his speech while asking New Delhi to initiate result oriented dialogue. 


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