Considering that there has been a decline in militancy in the Kashmir Valley, the opening of the 472-year-old Mughal road is not a surprising event. It will not only facilitate the movement of people and goods within the state to the benefit of social and economic life, but can also be a tourist attraction. The latter, especially the foreigners, are bound to marvel at the engineering feat of the construction a road which rises to an altitude of 11,500 feet (3,505 metres) in the Pir Panjan mountain range, higher than the Banihal pass (2,832 metres), and also take in the scenic beauty at these heights.
The 84-km road links Bafiaz in Jammu’s Poonch district to the Shopian district in the valley. Emperor Akbar had led a grand army along the then cart road to defeat Yousuf Shah Chek, described in Wikipedia as Kashmir’s last “independent” ruler, in 1586. Historians say that a caravan of horses, chariots and foot soldiers had traversed the route to assimilate the valley with the rest of the Mughal kingdom. Ironically, concerns are currently being expressed by the security forces about the separatists and terrorists using this alternative connectivity to undo the centuries-old assimilation.
But even if the apprehensions are legitimate, it should not dampen the spirit of the state and central authorities. Instead, the fear should fortify their resolve to watch over the safety of the travellers all the more diligently and ruthlessly eliminate disruption. The caution is necessary because American intelligence reports have suggested that the Pakistan-based terror outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba, is likely to use the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan next year to step up their depredation in Kashmir. However, the use of the road by ordinary people and tourists will be a sign that the bonds between the state and the rest of the country remain as strong as ever.