In J-K, Modi Does 'heart Talk'

4 July 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today embarked on a journey of 'winning hearts' of the people of Jammu and Kashmir through development. He asserted that development, not politics, was the only solution to the problems this state was confronting. Instead of touching on the contentious political issues such as abrogation of Article 370 and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, which have triggered a debate in the separatist camp and migrant community, Modi focused on development. He set the ball rolling at Katra, the base camp of Vaishno Devi shrine that attracts nearly 10 million pilgrims every year from all over the country. 'Development, not politics, can solve problems this state is facing,' said the Prime Minister. Strong forces a must 'If the country has to prosper, the citizens have to live in peace. The country has to have strong armed forces to keep the border secured,' Modi said while interacting with soldiers at the headquarters of the Army 16 Corps at Badami Bagh Cantonment. He flagged off the inaugural train from Katra to Udhampur, covering around 25 km, ferrying schoolchildren waving the national flag, and declared that the train had opened the way for its further link to Banihal, which was already linked to Baramullah in the Kashmir valley. Modi boarded the train for a few minutes and interacted with the children. He said the train would not only benefit the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also the entire country. 'It has the potential to make Katra, the town just 50 km north of Jammu, a hub of economic activity. It won't hurt the economy of any other part of the region,' he said, allaying the fears of Jammu city's traders who feared that the direct train to Katra would affect their business. Keen on showing that he had only the development agenda on his first visit as the Prime Minister to the state, Modi steered clear of political issues. He deliberately avoided talking about the issues that figured on the BJP agenda. All political groups - the National Conference, Congress, PDP and the CPM - have arrayed against abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to the state. Modi did not talk about the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, who had fled the Valley after a series of killings. The BJP has listed the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits as the top priority in its manifesto. Even while he was on a visit to Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar, the headquarters of 16 corps where he paid tributes to martyrs and addressed soldiers, the stress was on development. Saluting soldiers for their bravery, the Prime Minister said a strong security network was a must for the development of the country. He said the pace of development and welfare of the nation depended on how secure the country was. He said there would be an effort to produce weapons indigenously to diminish the dependency on their import. 'The money, so saved, can be utilised for the welfare and modernisation of the forces,' he said. The inauguration of second phase of the 240-MW Uri hydroelectric project, located close to the Line of Control (LoC), was another major project on the itinerary of the Prime Minister. He said: 'This project will produce energy and the power will flow to the homes of the people.' The project's power will benefit not only Jammu and Kashmir but also neighbouring states, particularly Punjab.