Sonia Visits J&K, Praises BJP's Peace Measures
19 January 2004
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who arrived in Jammu on Monday on a two-day visit to restive Jammu and Kashmir's winter capital primarily to discuss strategy ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, has supported the Prime Minister's effort to normalise relations with neighbouring Pakistan. She, however, asked the Centre to ensure that the proposed dialogue with Islamabad proved meaningful and result- oriented. She said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered enormously due to militancy and terrorism over the past 14 years, and hoped that the resumption of talks with Pakistan will help in restoring peace and normalcy in the state. She was concerned particularly about the security of the people of Jammu and acknowledged the need of taking all necessary steps to create a sense of security among them. During her stay in Jammu, the Congress president is due to meet chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to discuss sharing of seats between her Congress party and his People's Democratic Party for the Parliamentary elections. Jammu and Kashmir has six seats to fill up - three from the Kashmir Valley, two from Jammu and one from the Ladakh region. The two parties, along with some regional groups, form the coalition government in the state, and as per the arrangement reached between them prior to assuming power in November 2002, a Congress chief minister will replace Mr Sayeed on completing his three-year term next year. Massive security was in place for the Congress president's arrival in Jammu, where a series of terrorist acts that claimed several lives earlier this month has created scare among the residents afresh. A multi-tier security system was activated and high alert sounded.