Prime minister Narendra Modi seems to be focused on improving infrastructure in the strategically important state of Jammu and Kashmir. During his second visit to the state in as many months, he has reiterated his commitment to a new deal for the people through better connectivity and faster development. If the first time it was a visit to the Valley to inaugurate a railway line, this time it was to the strategically located towns of Leh and Kargil. He has promised the Kashmiris to take up with Pakistan and China the question of reopening the Kargil-Skardu Road and opening Leh-Mansarovar Road, which will improve religious tourism and people-to-people contact.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir know that some such announcements in the past remained just announcements. That Modi’s is different is borne out by his commitment to spend `8,000 crore to improve road connectivity in the state, which is under the shadow of cross-border terrorism and where separatists play a major role. Modi knows only too well that China has been building roads close to the border so that its troops can move to frontier posts at short notice. India has been lagging behind in the development of border roads, so much so that defence experts fear that in the event of a conflict, Indian defence forces would be at a disadvantage.
The prime minister does not want, under any circumstances, a situation where the Indian troops would be handicapped in meeting any challenge. Border security has, in fact, been engaging his attention right from the word go. Modi made a significant statement that it was not the lack of funds but rampant corruption that was preventing development to reach all areas of the country. While he has announced his determination to root out corruption at the Centre and in the states, chief minister Omar Abdullah should take it as a dig at him. With the state going to polls later this year, it is clear that Modi wants the BJP to give the National Conference a run for its money.