CHAMLIYAL BORDER: Batting for revival of the Indo-Pak reconciliation process to bring about peace in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said if hostilities between the two neighbours can become news, why cannot cultural bonhomie.
"I wonder if hostilities can become news between the two neighbours, why can't such cultural bonhomie," she told reporters here. Mehbooba joined thousands of devotees from the two countries at the shrine of Baba Chamliyal near the International Border (IB) in Ramgarh sector of Samba district on the occasion of the annual Mela of the mystic saint.
MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, state Industries Minister Chander Parkash Ganga and state Tourism Minister Priya Sethi accompanied the Chief Minister. Mehbooba said given its socio-religious significance, Chamliyal could become the hub of a new movement for reconciliation in the region.
"I hope our good intentions are reciprocated by our neighbour," she said, emphasising on people-to-people contact between the two countries "to remove mistrust and create a congenial atmosphere for dialogue and reconciliation". The PDP leader said like "siblings locked in an endless rivalry", India and Pakistan have bickered for well over six decades.
"Transforming that rivalry into a mature, productive relationship will be difficult but the consequences of continued animosity will be much worse," said Mehbooba, adding that there is always a possibility of friendship between the two countries as both the cultures share "a fondness for each other".
She said if there is any "silver lining in the grey clouds of competition", it is the fact that normalising relations would be a boon for business in both countries. "It may sound simplistic but building relationships is the key to peace and economic prosperity in the subcontinent in the foreseeable future," she said, adding that some "measurable amount of friendship" will become unavoidable "very soon".
She said both the countries stand to gain if bilateral trade, economic and societal relations between the two improve and they are able to resolve their problems gradually. "This can be possible if they are innovative in their thinking and break out of the stranglehold of one-sided, emotionally charged narrative of history," she said, adding to begin with there can be friendly exchanges in various fields such as art, environment, culture, youth affairs, sports, information and media. The Chief Minister offered chadar at the shrine.
Stressing on the need to revive the Indo-Pak reconciliation process, Mehbooba said it is imperative towards bringing about peace in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond. "We are working with the government of India for opening Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu, Nowshera-Mirpur and some other roads to encourage people-to-people contact," she said, adding that Suchetgarh has the potential of becoming "J&K's Wagah" as was envisioned by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
She said in the long run, Suchetgarh can become a trading point like Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh with the neighbouring country, adding that the village has been taken up for development as a border tourism destination under the Swadesh Darshan project funded by the Union Tourism Ministry.
The various components of the Rs 5-crore project include restoration of old Octroi Post, construction of a multi-purpose hall, development of waterbody and landscaping of lawns to enhance the ambience of the place, she added.