Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today batted strongly for political resolution of the Kashmir issue but cautioned that it should not be allowed to be hijacked and turned into a "religious issue".
Mufti said that Jammu and Kashmir had signed its future (with India) and the only thing now possible was that the state becomes a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan.
"A political issue should not be hijacked and made a religious issue because we can address a political issue and can find a way out unlike the religious issue," the chief minister said in her reply to the motion of thanks on the Governor's address in the state Assembly here.
"Pakistan has to understand that that Jammu and Kashmir has written its future and the only thing now possible is that the state can become a peace bridge instead of a bone of contention between the two countries," she asserted.
We don't want to interfere in the foreign policy of our country, but the country has to think and understand, like (former Prime Minister) Vajpayee had, that Jammu and Kashmir is the biggest sufferer because of the animosity between the two countries, she said in a 49-minute address.
Referring to Chinese efforts to build a road to Afghanistan, she asked what was wrong if Jammu and Kashmir becomes the gateway to central Asia.
"America was trying to exploit the mines of Afghanistan and it is China that has built a road and we left behind. Our state is strategically well placed and we should become part of these routes so that an entire world is opened instead of one country (Pakistan)," she said.
We have to go back to the roots and routes as well the roots from where we started, the brotherhood and communal harmony, she said.
Describing the appointment of the Centre's special representative as a major step, she said those who do not want to talk cannot be forced to have dialogue.
"We have to keep the humanity angle in mind while seeking a solution to Jammu and Kashmir and we have to play a bigger role. Sharma was given cabinet secretary status, which is the highest position in the bureaucracy of the country," she said.
"Several months has passed since his appointment but they (separatists) are not coming forward for talks even as bloodshed is continuing. When someone is not ready to talk what will one do," she said.
You can take a horse to a stream but cannot force it to drink, she added.
Mufti said that an all party parliamentary delegation visited the state in 2016 in the midst of the unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani but the separatists did not open their doors to them.
"They (parliamentarians) were not weak. They are towering leaders and came to the doors (of separatists) because they had concern for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But the doors were not opened," she said.
She said her government would continue its efforts to seek a political solution to the problem and cannot sit idle.
Responding to the former chief minister Omar Abdullah's remarks that there was no clarity on Sharma mandate, she said the appointment order clearly states that the "Government of India representative is to initiate and carry forward the dialogue with elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the state of Jammu and Kashmir".
Praising Vajpayee for not succumbing to the provocations and initiating steps including boarding a bus to Lahore, she said it was during his period that ceasefire came into effect along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir, cross-border routes were opened for trade and travel and Hizbul Mujahideen were brought to the table despite massacre of seven boys in Rajouri, parliament attack and Kargil war.
Except (hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah) Geelani, everyone else (from the separatist camp) came on board, she said.
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