NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has pitched for creating a trade corridor between South Asia and Central Asia involving both India-held Kashmir and Azad Kashmir as its “nucleus”, reports said on Tuesday.

They said that Ms Mufti proposed the idea on the lines of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Speaking in the disputed state’s 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 subcontinent 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”, Ms Mufti was quoted as saying while winding up the discussion on the Motion of Thanks on Governor’s Address.

“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 favourable 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.”

She said: “Such an arrangement will supplement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through this part of Kashmir.”

The trans-Kashmir corridor, with diverse sub-corridors, Ms Mufti said, “was symbolic of relative peace, prosperity, cross-cultural and ideological fertilisation and human security until late 1940s”.

India’s overland connections with its northern neighbourhood got ruptured due to partition in 1947, she said.

“However, the current reopening of traditional trans-Jammu and Kashmir and trans-[Azad Kashmir] routes is strongly felt in view of the transforming geo-economic and geo-political scenarios at the regional and global levels.”

She said that not only the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot Roads that have already been opened for movement of people and goods, all the traditional road links including Suchetgarh-Sialkot 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.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2017

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