SRINAGAR: Leaders from various South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries have called for strengthening people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, which they said would help resolve the Kashmir issue. These leaders are here to attend the opening ceremony of the Institute of Kashmir Studies under the aegis of the South Asia Foundation (SAF). The former Sri Lanka President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, said that Kashmir was a beautiful place and she would ask her people to visit the valley.
She said that Kashmir wan issue between India and Pakistan. “The fundamental difference between the problems in Sri Lanka and Kashmir is that one is an issue within the country and the other is between two countries.“People-to-people contacts seem to be the best option to promote peace and reconciliation. It should continue and it will help in resolving Kashmir issue. It cannot be solved in one go,” she told journalists on the sidelines of a musical concert. She was pursuing the option of a dialogue with the LTTE. “But they [the present government] are only for military option. That is why problems have erupted there.”
Afghanistan’s Women Affairs Minister Hussan Bano Gazanfar said that she had come to Srinagar not at the invitation of the Indian government but on the South Asia Foundation’s initiative. “I am impressed with the beauty of Kashmir and the hospitality of the people.” She also supported the idea of people-to-people contact and said that it would help to promote peace. “I know how people, especially women, have been victims of violence in Afghanistan. So I wish that peace returns to this place as well.”
Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said that the initiative was a good beginning. “Kashmir is the abode of Sufism and we want to revive that.” The event was aimed at extending the bonds of friendship. It was not a part of a political solution. Pradesh Congress president and Union Water Resource Minister Saifuddin Soz said that there was no place for negative politics.-SANA