Wednesday, Aug 13, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, addressing a luncheon meeting jointly organised by the Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SR), in Chennai on Tuesday. To his left is R. Muthu, president, Southern Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The State offered a host of incentives. It had an edge over many States in some respects and militancy was down, he said. "This is the time to come to Kashmir," he told the Southern Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.
The Chief Minister read out a list of incentives that industry could avail itself of including tax holiday, cheap power and easy clearance of projects. He listed leather, Information Technology and electronics as areas of special thrust.
While inviting industry, the State was not neglecting its traditional sources of income - tourism and filmmaking. Tourism was up and officials were now being asked to vacate hotels they occupied. This was because more than 1.3 lakh tourists had come to Kashmir, between January and end-July, up from just over 10,000 during the same period last year. Amarnath pilgrims were not `counted' in this figure. Hence, there was an urgent need to strengthen the infrastructure available for the tourists and this could be one area of investment.
Mr. Sayeed also appealed to filmmakers to come to Kashmir. ``Where will you find such beautiful and unspoilt locales in the world?"
He assured them single window clearance on all aspects of film production and security apart from making available filming equipment.
Mr. Sayeed was here in the last leg of his journey around the country soliciting investment. He had already spoken to industry captains and the travel trade in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Chandigarh. `Kolkota is next on his list and maybe Bhopal and Patna', said K.B. Jandial, Information Director, J & K Government.
Asserting that the century's biggest opportunity had come today for India and Pakistan to resolve bilateral issues, Mr. Sayeed said his State was the biggest beneficiary of improved ties and scaling down of tensions between the neighbours. In his opinion, the Kashmir issue was very complicated and there was no readymade formula to solve it. ``Had it been so, Nehru or Shastri or Indira Gandhi would have solved it.'' He said the rail and air links should be restored at an early date. Trade relations should also be restored and people-to-people links should grow. ``A key to this would be relaxing of visa regulations on both sides,'' he said and hoped that with the Prime Minister's new peace initiatives these steps were not far away.
Mr. Sayeed wanted the Kashmiri Pandits to return. In fact, the Government was thinking of providing incentives for their return.
He discounted the theory that the Army was not happy with his initiatives and said he worked in close coordination with it. ``There was a perceptible change in the attitude of the security forces in view of our healing touch philosophy."
Asked if the Army would have a larger role in running Kashmir, he said no civilian Government would devolve powers to the Army. ``We have the mandate from the people and there should be no confusion about that.''
Later, Mr. Sayeed inaugurated the 461st branch of the Jammu and Kashmir bank at Pondy Bazaar.
The Bank chairman, M.Y. Khan, said the branch would function as a financial supermarket and offer a range of services including banking, insurance, depository, stock broking and telebanking.
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