Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan as a “right step in the right direction”.
“It is the right step in the right direction. The goodwill gesture by Modi will definitely break the ice in the relations between the two neighbours, a process started by the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan,” the chief minister said late on Friday.
Former chief minister and president of the National Conference (NC) Omar Abdullah also reacted to the development saying, “The re-engagement with Pakistan is a good step and a very welcome development. However, more than grand gestures, we need consistency”.
Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said he was always in the favour of good relations between the two countries, but added the same should happen by resolving the Kashmir issue.
“I am always in favour of good relations between India and Pakistan, but this can only happen if the human problem of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is resolved,” Geelani told reporters.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Kashmir’s chief cleric and chairman of moderate group of separatist Hurriyat Conference was the first among the separatists to welcome the gesture.
“It is a positive move, a good step and we should welcome easing of tensions between the two countries, but the basic issue of Kashmir will have to be resolved if the two countries really want to move ahead in good neighbourly relations”, the Mirwaiz told some local reporters.
Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the Pro-Azadi Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has reacted cautiously to the development.
“Nobody wants to oppose peace between India and Pakistan…We welcome the gesture, but assert that such goodwill gestures would only remain cosmetic as long as the people of Jammu and Kashmir divided between India and Pakistan continue to stew in their own soup”, Malik said.
People in the state, however, see a ray of hope in this unexpected gesture by Modi.
“He has pleasantly surprised all of us. We have always believed Modi to be a right wing politician in India. He has done something no other Indian prime minister ever did in the past,” Abid Wani, 48, said here.
Several others also spelt a similar view and suggested more such actions be taken in order to ensure a cordial relationship between the two countries.
“Their anger may cost business to big people, but it costs lives to Kashmiris. I hope and pray the extra mile Modi has walked gets the needed response from Pakistan so that the future of our children is secured”, Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, 55, said.
Modi on Friday surprised everyone with his decision to visit Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his way back from Kabul. Modi visited the ancestral home of Sharif and held talks with him.