Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has urged the Valley’s separatist leadership to engage itself unconditionally in a dialogue process with the Centre on its return from Pakistan later this week.

At the inauguration of a heritage bridge at Zainakadal, in the heart of the city, Mr. Abdullah hailed the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat delegation’s current process of talks with different hues of the Pakistani people and leadership. “Their visit to Pakistan after five years is a positive development,” Mr. Abdullah said in the Mirwaiz bastion in downtown Srinagar. “But it will lead to logical conclusion only when they [Hurriyat leaders] initiate it simultaneously with the Indian leadership,” he added.

“Gun not a solution”

The Chief Minister did not ignore separatist hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shabir Shah who have turned down Islamabad’s invitation and are not part of the Hurriyat delegation. “Everybody over here agrees that the gun bears no solution to the Kashmir problem,” he told the hardliners and implored them to come out of the freeze frame of status quo and show some receptivity to the offers of dialogue from the Centre.

Increase in tourism

Mr. Abdullah asserted that peace and development were indispensable for an economy and a population that had suffered enormously over two decades of the gun culture. He expressed his pleasure over the visit of 1.2 million tourists to the State, particularly to the valley, this year and underscored the need for building adequate infrastructure in the fast-reviving tourism sector. He said scores of fresh hotels and guesthouses had come up in the private sector in the capital city in the nearly four years of his government.

He said Zainakadal, Maharaj Gunj and other areas in Shehar-e-Khaas were known for heritage sites such as the shrines and monasteries of revered saints and scholars of the last millennium.

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