Srinagar, 5th August 2021: A webinar ‘Vision New Age Naya Kashmir: A Forward Movement for Peace and Progress’ was organized yesterday by Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group (KPSG). It was moderated by Ashok Bhan, Chairman, KPSG.

The webinar was attended by eminent panelists and participants who spoke on the issue. Welcoming the participants and accomplished panel speakers, Bhan opened the discussion with reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s honest and passionate statement that “not only the treasury of taxpayers of the country but peoples’ heart also beat for the people of Kashmir”.

He added that while the allocation of Rs 800 billion has been made to J&K, the UT of J&K is likely to get Rs 150 billion from 40 corporate houses for investment as corporate funding in various sectors like tourism, renewable energy, hospitality, education and infrastructure.

Bhan said that while the people lost time due to the Covid-19 situation and the related lockdown, the current administration has been pushing development projects at a remarkable speed.

Consolidation of grass root institutions like Panchayat Raj and empowerment of District Development Councils (DDCs) has instilled faith and confidence in youth in the country’s constitutional democracy. He further added that the commencement of the political process alongside development is beneficial for the people of J&K.

He averred that the recent all J&K political parties meeting with PM Modi had set an agenda for elections in J&K. Therefore, the UT was on the path of development and progress after the inoperability of Article 370 and 35A.

Speaking on the subject, Manzoor Ahmad Shah, a native from Pulwama practicing law in England, emphasized the need for Kashmiri politicians particularly the separatist leadership to play a constructive role rather than misleading the people.

He said that they need to understand the real ground situation adding that mere hollow slogans had done utmost damage and brought death and destruction to Kashmiris.

Shah said that the people especially the youth of Kashmir, understand that Pakistan was a failed state and ISI, military and jihadist elements in its society did not want a democratic polity and inclusive government in Pakistan and therefore chose to promote -India narrative, Ghulam Hassan Mir, the former minister, emphasized the need on conducting elections saying that violence has no place in a peaceful society and Kashmiris have rejected violence and separatist way of the polity.

He added that there is a need for a healing touch policy and all the trust deficit between Delhi and Kashmir has to end. He welcomed the PM’s statement of “Dil Ki Doori and Dilli ki Doori ko hatana hai”.

He further said that the effort was to create a new narrative for peace and progress in the best interests of the people of J&K Barrister Hamid Bashani, a Pok native, criticized Pakistan’s constitutional amendments viz a víz status to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and POK.

He praised the development saying that it is in the interest of the people of J&K Bashani said that the people of GB have been agitating against the abolition of “state subject law” by Pakistan, which has adversely affected the demographic character of GB. These changes, he said, can be gauged by observing Shias who constituted more than 80% of GB population in 1948 and had been reduced to less than 40%.

The locals of this region are agitating, protesting and frequently raising demands seeking constitutional and political rights and such protests have been met with brute force. Bashani said that Pakistan had made a mockery of the system as the aspiring election candidates were prescreened to ensure entry of only those who supported annexation with Pakistan. He asserted that the voices for rights in GB are suppressed by law enforcement agencies and the nationalist leaders are subjected to torture and imprisonment for peaceful protests.

Barrister Bashani said that on Sept 14, 2012, the GB Legislative Assembly passed a resolution demanding complete provincial status in Pakistan, which was rebuffed with the Legislative Assembly of AJK passing of a resolution (11 Dec 2014) for rejecting GB resolution.

Maj Gen BK Sharma (Retd), a native Bhaderwah Jammu and Director of a Prestigious Think Tank USI, said the idea of ‘Naya Kashmir’ has to be delivered at grass root level on a fast track basis. The situation of J&K needs to be seen from an angle of national security and the narrative of radicalization needs to be addressed. While a lot is happening on good governance, development cannot happen alongside uncertainty. The administration has lost time leveraging tourist places outside the valley, in Jammu province. There are picturesque places in Chenab valley and other areas of Jammu.

There is a need for a dialogue to emphasize the importance of Kashmiri heritage viz a viz rest of Central Axis and build a narrative around the same. A sustained and honest dialogue will unlock the potential of J&K and here is an opportunity that vision Naya Kashmir will be offering. He also highlighted the importance of J&K in geo-strategic dynamics especially when the Pakistan-China axis is getting stronger.