The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti invite to taste a piece of Kashmir

New Delhi, May 14: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has come up with a novel plan to familiarise the country’s politicians with the problems of his state. He has suggested that the next meeting of the Inter-State Council, which deals with Centre-state relations and devolution of power, be held in Srinagar.

Mufti made the suggestion to deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani in the capital yesterday during a meeting of the standing committee of the council. Advani was open to the idea but as the Prime Minister presides over the meeting, he said the invitation would be forwarded to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“I have promised to pass on the invitation to the Prime Minister, who will take the final decision,” Advani later said.

If the Prime Minister is game, a convenient schedule would be worked out once he returns from his holiday in Manali.

However, this would be subject to security clearance as the meeting will not only be attended by the Prime Minister but also senior members of his Cabinet and chief ministers of all states.

Sources said Mufti feels that the political class would have a better grasp of Kashmir’s complexities if they see for themselves the situation in the militancy-torn state.

The invitation was also timed to coincide with the Prime Minister’s peace overtures to Pakistan. If the peace process moves forward, highlighting Kashmir’s problems to leaders of various parties would serve the purpose of sensitising them to the popular demand for “soft” borders between the two Kashmirs — the one he rules and the one under Pakistani control.

The People’s Democratic Party chief believes that a softer Line of Control would be a big confidence-building measure to divided families on either side.

An aide of the chief minister said the state administration knows that even if there is progress in India-Pakistan relations, the Kashmir issue will remain a stumbling block. At best, there is hope for “a positive engagement, which could hopefully bring down the level of violence in the state”, the aide explained.

Mufti also hopes that an Inter-State Council meeting would help generate business for the state, as some chief ministers could be persuaded to explore such opportunities, and could boost tourism, too.

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