Mufti Sees Great Hope For Peace In J&K
30 January 2004
The Times of India
Srinagar: Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed sees a great hope of a lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir . Mufti Sayeed, who is leading Indian official Haj delegation, appeared confident about it at a press conference in Jeddah yesterday. 'After 56 years, people of both India and Pakistan have realized that enmity has not paid dividends and have been clamouring for peace'. They know that they live in a globalized world and that realities on the ground are very different. The 'hand of friendship extended by India ' had also made a difference, resulting in the present thaw in the situation. 'God has made our state beautiful. For us, it's a return to paradise with the healing touch policy', Mufti Sayeed said, referring to the decade and a half of strife that had ruined the state's economy and social fabric. The will of the people has finally prevailed, he said, and they want to live in peace with dignity. 'People are now confident and are busy conducting winter sports like ice hockey. It's all a change of scenario, with Kashmir becoming a destination for all seasons', he added. The Chief Minister attributed the sea change to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's peace process for promoting friendship with neighbours and good neighbourly relations. 'When you start a process and negotiate all the matters, including Kashmir , one has to be realistic and patient for things to move ahead and concretise, saying that wind of friendship is already sweeping the region. In fact, people of Jammu and Kashmir have already developed contacts with Kashmiris across the border'. Mufti Sayeed rejected the idea that the ceasefire in the state was done at the behest of a superpower. ' India is itself a country of a billion people and it cannot be dictated by any other country. India itself is now a great power', he asserted. On the issue of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which has given special status to the only Muslim majority state of the country, Mufti Sayeed said that the BJP which leads the ruling National Democracy Alliance government may have talked about its abrogation but the NDA government has never said so. 'We have been given certain guarantees. The NDA government is considerate towards our problems and endorses our policies, especially the healing touch', he said, adding that Kashmiri Pandits, who are miniscule minority of two per cent of the valley's population and migrated due to militancy, would certainly return back. 'Their return is on the cards', he said optimistically. Tourism has bounced back and many visitors are coming to the state throughout the year, Mufti Sayeed said, adding that various festivals are once again being celebrated in the state. Haj arrangements for Indian pilgrims are excellent, the Chief Minister said, although there was always scope for further improvement. For the past six months, Indian Consulate General has made good efforts that have resulted in providing accommodation to our pilgrims close to the holy Haram, he maintained. About 1.20 lakh pilgrims have arrived from India and are now in Mecca . Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who heads the Indian Haj delegation also called on the Saudi Minister for Haj Affairs Iyad Amin Madni in his office at Mina, 15 kilometres from Mecca, this morning and reviewed with him the arrangements made by the Saudi Arabian government for the facility of the Indian Haj pilgrims. Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Kamal-ud-Din Ahmad, Counsel General and all the members of the Indian Haj delegation were also present. Mufti Sayeed conveyed his gratitude to the Saudi government especially Madni for the cooperation extended by him to the delegation and facilities provided to the pilgri Mufti Sayeed invited the Saudi Arabian Minister for Haj Affairs to visit Jammu and Kashmir . During his interaction with the Saudi Minister, both the leaders discussed the thaw in the Indo-Pak relations with special reference to the path breaking meeting of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf during the SAARC summit at Islamabad early this month. Mufti Sayeed apprised Madni that there has been a movement forward in the peace process between India and Pakistan and it will have good impact in the entire region. He said this process is bound to succeed as there is a strong urge among the people of both the countries to demolish the walls of hatred between the two neighbours and usher an era of lasting peace vital for removing poverty and backwardness in both the countries. Last evening, Mufti Sayeed took stock of the facilities extended to the Indian Haj pilgrim. Mufti Sayeed had a meeting with Indian Envoy to Saudi Arabia Kamal-ud-Din Ahmad and discussed the matters relating to he facilities and safety of the Haj pilgri Counsel General was also present. He appreciated the effort made by the Indian Consulate General and Embassy in Saudi Arabia for improving the conditions for the stay and other amenities for the Indian Haj pilgri Nearly, 1.20 lakh pilgrims from India , including 8943 from Jammu and Kashmir , are performing Haj this year. In all, 20 lakh Muslims from seventy countries have converged at Mecca to perform Haj this year. After interacting with the people at Mecca and Jeddah, Mufti Sayeed said that people in Saudi Arabia are also happy over the turn around in the Indo-Pak relations and appreciated the initiatives taken to resolve the matters through dialogue. All the pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir and the country are safe. The Saudi Arabian government has also made elaborate security arrangements and close circuit cameras have been installed at every crossing for keeping constant vigil This evening, the pilgrims are proceeding to Mina to perform the ceremonies associated with the Haj.