In a significant announcement, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Friday pitched for developing Suchetgarh on the pattern of Wagah, saying that it can act as a meeting point for people living on both sides of international border between India and Pakistan.
“I will vigorously pursue with the Centre the issue of projecting Suchetgarh as a people-to-people meeting point across the International Border,” he said during his tour of the border area. During the tour, he inspected various ongoing works for creation of tourism and sports infrastructure, besides visiting several technical education institutes in the winter capital.
He also announced slew of measures to promote Suchetgarh as a border tourist destination, on pattern of Wagah, in Amritsar. “With improvement in overall situation, we can also explore the option of promoting Suchetgarh as a trading point with the neighbouring country,” he stated.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Kavinder Gupta, Minister for IT, YS&S and Technical Education, Imran Raza Ansari, Legislators, Sham Chaudhary, Gagan Baghat and Ramesh Arora, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Dr. Pawan Kotwal, IG, BSF, Jammu, Rakesh Sharma and Secretary Tourism, Farooq. A. Shah, were also present on the occasion.
Immediately on his arrival at Suchetgarh, the Chief Minister was given a ceremonial guard-of-honour by a contingent of BSF Personnel. He also went around the border outpost and saw many utilities.
Describing Suchetgarh as ideally located for border tourism, Mufti Sayeed said he will approach the Ministry of Home Affairs to explore the possibility of bringing Suchetgarh within the ambit of cross-border trade and travel, which, he said is a huge confidence building measure between India and Pakistan. The government will work to create additional facilities to increase footfall of tourists to Suchetgarh, he said, adding, “It will be ultimate if we are able to achieve a breakthrough (with Pakistan) in opening up Suchetgarh as an industrial trading point with Sialkot, across the border”.
Mufti Sayeed, during his previous visits to Salamabad (Baramulla) and Chakan da Bagh (Poonch), had expressed desire to broaden the scope of existing cross-LoC trade and travel. For this, all connected issues in the meetings of Joint Working Group are discussed between India and Pakistan from time-to-time.
Mufti Sayeed also referred to the times when people from both sides of the border would meet because of which this place used to be abuzz with activity.
He issued directions for setting up of an amusement park and musical fountains to make the destination more attractive. He also passed instructions for taking up with BRO (Border Roads Organization) the four-laning of 7-km road stretch between R. S. Pura and Suchetgarh, to make the travel of the visitors to the border town more comfortable.
It was given out that some government land is already available, but to create adequate infrastructure for developing Suchetgarh as a tourist destination, even proprietary land may also be required to be acquired. The Tourism Department was instructed to work out the requirement of land for executing this project.
The Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, assured that the acquisition of land would be done on a fast-track basis.
Mufti Sayeed was also briefed about the broad contours of the Ministry of Tourism’s (MoT) Swadesh Darshan Scheme for development of Suchetgarh as a border destination. The project, sanctioned at a cost of Rs.4.92 crore, envisages restoration of old Octroi post (built during British Era), construction of multi-purpose hall, development of pond and landscaping of the lawns.
Situated along the Indo-Pak International Border in R. S. Pura sector, Suchetgarh is only at a distance of 28 km from Jammu city. The tourism in Jammu will receive a huge fillip when Suchetgarh is further promoted as a border destination in the region.
During his brief interaction with media-persons, the Chief Minister allayed fears on Jammu losing focus after direct train service to Katra. He said government will work to diversify its efforts in promoting Jammu as an independent tourist destination.
The Chief Minister also inspected two other projects sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism under Himalayan Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Jammu city.
He first arrived at Bagh-e-Bahu, where Musical Water Fountains with Sound-and-Light Show will be set up at a cost of Rs. 10.82 crore. He passed instructions for installing durable deodar/teakwood seating, which goes with the ambience of one of Jammu’s best recreational destinations. Besides the laser fountain show, the project comprises construction of air-conditioned viewing gallery and solar illumination of entire premises.