Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, on Saturday visited Suchetgarh and some other areas close to International Border (IB) with Pakistan where she pitched for opening new cross-border points to expand people-to-people contact.
She also called for India-Pakistan reconciliation, asserting this was imperative towards bringing about peace in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond.
She said she would be delighted if Suchetgarh is promoted as a people-to-people meeting point after reopening the cross-border route connecting it with Pakistani city of Sialkot. An official accompanying the Chief Minister said that Ms. Mufti only sought to give wings to her late father’s dream of making Suchetgarh J&K’s Wagah.
Then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had during a visit to the area in December last year said that his government will soon approach the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) with a request to explore the possibility of bringing Suchetgarh-Sialkote corridor between India and Pakistan along the IB within the ambit of cross-border trade and travel.
“Suchetgarh can be J&K’s Wagah. I will approach the Centre to make it a people-to-people meeting point across the IB,” she said adding that “with improvement in overall situation, we can also explore the option of promoting Suchetgarh as a trading point with the neighbouring country.”
Suchetgarh is about 27 kilometres from Jammu and served as the route to Sialkot during the pre-partition era, the (now) Pakistani town which is just 11 kms from the border post. The Jammu-Sialkot railway line through Suchetgarh was a 43 km narrow gauge branch of the North-Western railway and the first railway line in Jammu and Kashmir. But since 1947 the line has fallen into a state of disrepair on both sides of the border.
Mufti later during a visit to Baba Chamliyal, a 17th century mystic's mausoleum close to the IB which attracts thousands of devotees from both sides on the annual mela held on fourth Thursday of June, urged media to highlight the cultural camaraderie that exists between the people of India and Pakistan. “I wonder if hostilities can become news between the two neighbours, why can't cultural bonhomie,” she asked.
While interacting with media persons, the Chief Minister sought to send a strong message of peace and reconciliation to both India and Pakistan from the soil of Jammu and Kashmir. She cited the example of the US and Iran, once two sworn enemies, who have recently ended hostilities and stitched a new phase of engagement.
“If the US and Iran can join hands, I see no reason why India and Pakistan cannot come together to restore stability and begin a new era of peace and prosperity in the region,” she said.
Favouring more transit points for people-to-people contact, the Chief Minister said cultural affinity across the two regions is too strong to resist. “I hope our good intentions are reciprocated by our neighbour,” she said.
After visiting various places of tourist interest and archeological importance in and outside the winter capital, she said, “ I promise to take tourism to all corners of Jammu, for which a proposal for a separate Tourist Circuit will be shortly finalized.”
Secretary Tourism briefed the Chief Minister about the Swadesh Darshan Project, funded by the Ministry of Tourism, under the Himalayan Circuit for development of Suchetgarh as a border destination. The other components of the Rs.5-crore project include restoration of old Octroi Post, construction of a multipurpose hall, development of water-body and landscaping of lawns to enhance the ambience of the place.
J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, talking to officials during her visit to 'Ground Zero' along the International Border with Pakistan on Saturday .