Altaf Hamid Rao.

MIRPUR (AJK),  (Parliament Times) :  While welcoming the US investment in the construction of highways between the Central Asian states and the financial aid reportedly announced by the US government for the projects to promote education and create employment opportunities, the Kashmir-born member of the Texas Democratic Party, Raja Muzaffar, called for the expanding scope of construction, uplift of USAID-sponsored projects in Central Asian states to Kashmir:

The construction of inter State highways will not only increase international trade but also help common people to connect with each other.

In a statement reaching and released to the media here on Thursday, Raja Muzaffar said that he wanted to draw the attention of the US Secretary of State “now is the time to connect Central and South Asia through Kashmir”.

Raja Muzaffar underlined that Kashmir was a very connected region in the past. The ancient Silk Road that connected East and West in the heart of Eurasia was an important historical example of the benefits of regional connectivity. Between Russia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Jammu and Kashmir was an economic hub until the early 20th century.

The presence of Central Asian traders in Kashmir was common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, after the partition of British India, the geographically important region became a battleground between China, India and Pakistan, and due to lack of trust between the parties involved in the conflict and lack of political courage in leadership and governments, India And Pakistan, this region is now the most dangerous region in the world. It has become the least connected region. President Clinton has also declared this region as a dangerous part of the world.

Raja Muzaffar said that the US Foreign Secretary is going to Delhi and perhaps Islamabad after Uzbekistan, hoping that he will use this opportunity to urge the Indian and Pakistani leaders to resolve the issue through dialogue.

Raja Muzaffar appealed to the Secretary of State to extend the Trade Development Plan of the US Department of Commerce and the new program announced by the US Agency for International Development to Kashmir.

Raja Muzaffar drew the attention of the American Foreign Minister and said that some tourists visiting Central Asian states have written in their travelogues that there is a lot of similarity between Uzbekistan and Kashmir in the fields of art, culture, architecture, etc. and it feels like Uzbekistan and Kashmir are brothers and sisters. After the partition of British India in 1947, the economic situation of Kashmir suffered a major setback due to the fighting over Kashmir between India and Pakistan and between China and India. As a result of the Indo-Pak War of 1947, several roads including the Jammu-Sialkot Railway Track, Srinagar-Rawalpindi Highway were also closed.

Kashmir was cut off from the outside world. Routes and roads used to import raw materials for the famous Kashmiri shawls and carpets were also closed. The route connecting Kashmir with the former Russian states through the Wakhan Corridor was closed. Similarly, the famous silk route from Kashmir via Kashgar China, which was also used to import raw material for shawls from Mongolia, was closed. The ongoing tensions and wars between India and Pakistan, India and China have created a “siege mentality”. Kashmir is now a matter of breaking this “prisoner mentality”.

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