In a significant suggestion, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday pitched for building a corridor between South Asia and Central Asia with Jammu and Kashmir as its “nucleus”, on the lines of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pak-occupied Kashmir.
Speaking in the Legislative Council, she said such a corridor between the two emerging economic hotspots would help forge a new regional cooperation, energy transformation, trade and transit.
The Indian sub-continent was historically linked to Central Asia through Kashmir and “Taking advantage of its geographical location, Jammu and Kashmir could become a nucleus towards forging a new economic alliance in the region,” Mehbooba said while winding up the discussion on the Motion of Thanks on Governor’s Address.
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“The oil and gas resources of Central Asia are the nearest and most economical answers to South Asian energy needs and J&K can help foster energy cooperation in the region,” she said.
“This will create favorable conditions for Jammu and Kashmir to play its natural role of connecting the two emerging economic zones and lift itself out of political and economic fragility,” the Chief Minister added.
She said, “Such an arrangement will supplement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through this part of Kashmir.”
The trans-Kashmir corridor, with diverse sub-corridors, Mehbooba said, “was symbolic of relative peace, prosperity, cross-cultural and ideological fertilization and human security until late 1940s.”
Noting that India’s overland connections with its northern neighborhood got ruptured due to partition in 1947, she said, “However, the current reopening of traditional trans-Jammu and Kashmir and trans-PoK routes is strongly felt in view of the transforming geo-economic and geo-political scenarios at the regional and global levels.”
Mehbooba said not only Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote Roads that have already been opened for movement of people and goods, all the traditional road links including Suchetgarh-Sialkote road, Kargil-Skardu road, Bandipora-Gurez-Gilgit road and Nowshera-Mirpur road can be and should be opened for free movement of people and goods in the region.
She said this could be followed by similar links between South and Central Asia across Jammu and Kashmir. “Over the long term we could revive the historical Silk Route in the region as a part of the larger paradigm of regional energy and economic cooperation,” the Chief Minister said.
The economic cooperation across the LoC could be also fostered by setting up joint committees of experts in the areas like education, horticulture, tourism, agriculture, handicrafts, water resources, environment and disaster management, she said.