PM for Talks with Pak, Separatists Call Bandh during His Visit

Inaugurating Anantnag-Qazigunda railway link, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that New Delhi was prepared for a dialogue with Islamabad for peace in the region.

Besides, Singh appealed to Pakistan to keep under control all anti-India groups and not allow its soil be used for terror activities.

Singh is on a two-day visit to the valley accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee, health and family welfare minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and union minister for new and renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah.

The prime minister said that India is ready for a discussion on humanitarian issues with Pakistan which would make things easier for traders, divided families, prisoners and travelers.

He stressed that it is essential for a productive dialogue that terrorism is brought under control.

Also, reaching out to all sections of Jammu and Kashmir, he asked Kashmiri people to join in development of the state.

PM flagged off a new train service on the 18-km track linking south Kashmir with Srinagar and other places in the north of the valley. With this, the 129-km railway line in the Kashmir Valley is complete.

The 18-km stretch, not so long in terms of geographical distance, will be of huge socio-economic and political significance to the militancy-affected Kashmir Valley. The stretch is part of the government’s Kashmir rail link, which has been declared a project of national importance.

Expectations are running high here as the Prime Minister’s visit comes after home minister P Chidambaram’s announcement earlier this month that the centre would engage every shade of political opinion to find an honourable and acceptable solution to the problems in Jammu and Kashmir.

Reports said the PM was keen to make some headway on Kashmir and could offer several confidence building measures like reduction of troops from urban areas and abrogation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Centre’s optimism is bolstered by the huge military successes against terrorists and setbacks separatists faced with the record turnout in last year’s assembly elections. Some see it as an attempt to co-opt the Hurriyat in the backdrop of the recent separatist-backed agitations, which saw some of the biggest rallies in two decades.

However, separatists called a bandh on the even of PM’s visit which crippled life acroos the valley.

Analysts believe that these agitations could have been prevented had the Centre offered some concessions to the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat has used these rallies to show its ‘‘representative character’’, more so when the Centre has tried to look the other way.

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