The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pullout with PM entry

New Delhi, Nov. 16: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will try and 'reach out to the hearts and minds' of the people during his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir starting tomorrow.

An official of the Prime Minister's Office said Singh will be interacting with cross-sections of civil society, 'listening and talking to them' and trying to understand their 'sentiments'. 'Anyone who is willing to come and meet him is welcome,' he said.

As a tangible goodwill gesture, the de-escalation of armed forces in the state will also start tomorrow. The pullout of the first contingent of about 1,000 soldiers will coincide with Singh's visit, the cabinet committee on security decided today.

Militants, however, marred the atmosphere by stepping up violence. On Id, they barged into a civilian home in Budgam district on the trail of two counter-insurgents and opened fire, killing their targets as well as four of a family. ( )

A dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference is not on the anvil, the PMO official said. The Hurriyat was off Singh's agenda because it was 'not as if it represented the whole of J&K civil society' as is made out by sections of the media.

'The Hurriyat's projection is unifocal as if the Prime Minister's entire visit hinges on it. This is doing disservice to ourselves and giving the Hurriyat excessive importance in proportion to ground realities,' he said.

Singh is not expected to announce any economic packages on his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir as Prime Minister. Instead, he will focus on 'economic revival and reconstruction' of the state battered by decades of insurgency and civil strife.

'Just as at the national level, the focus is on rate of growth of the economy, increasing employment opportunities and economic and infrastructure development to promote new investments, so too with J&K.

'What the Prime Minister would like to articulate is a long-term plan for economic reconstruction and development,' the official said.

Asked if this was a way of sugarcoating a package dole, he said: 'Packages are seen as doling out money for this or that project and scheme. The word 'package' has lost its meaning like 'socialism' and 'secularism'. The focus has shifted from packages and palliatives to a long-term strategy for reconstruction and development.'

Stressing that the phrase 'hearts and minds of people' encapsulated Singh's vision for Jammu and Kashmir, the official said the Prime Minister had spent a large part of his six months in the chair interacting with those considered authorities on the state and 'listening' to them.

Singh would similarly be in listening mode when he interacts with civil society and the state government over the next two days, he said. 'He wants to formulate his strategy based on what they say and what their concerns are.'

The Prime Minister will also address a public meeting each in Srinagar and Jammu.

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