An international conference on improving ties
between Jammu and KasHmir and Central Asian countries brought to light a need to rejuvenate silk routes,
says kavita suri

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is witnessing a heavy influx of tourists who want to escape the scorching heat of the plains. Apart from them, academicians from around the world also congregated at the University of Kashmir last week for a three-day international seminar entitled “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in Central Asia: Challenges and Prospects”. Hundreds of delegates from India and abroad, deans, heads of departments, faculty members, scholars and students participated in the event, which was inaugurated by chief minister Omar Abdullah, and organised by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh and the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.
 While delivering the presidential address, NN Vohra, governor of Jammu and Kashmir, said India&’s age old relations with Central Asian countries were deeply embedded in civilisation and cultural similarities. He emphasised the need to strengthen these relations while keeping in mind the emerging challenges that both the region as well as the rest of the world faced at varying levels.
  Giving detailed accounts of socio-cultural and religious affinities between Central Asian states and Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah said India&’s policy regarding its connections with Central Asia would be beneficial to the state provided its neighbours in the west would allow flights from Srinagar to capitals of these states over their lands. “Relations between India — particularly Jammu and Kashmir — and Central Asia have been historic. There is perhaps no field of life where we do not possess similarities. Our culture, heritage, languages, architecture, eating habits and religion have similarity,” he said and stressed the need to rediscover silk routes between Jammu and Kashmir and Central Asia to open a new chapter of socio-economic development.
   Identifying the challenges to link India with Central Asian countries via Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, Abdullah said, “Till we overcome this challenge we can have overland contact with these countries via Jammu and Kashmir.” He said air flights starting from Srinagar international airport to capitals of Central Asian countries would rejuvenate historic links between people from both regions.
   Both the governor and chief minister recalled their association with Central Asian countries. Abdullah referred to his visits to various Central Asian countries when he was Union minister of state for foreign affairs. During that time he took great interest in people visiting India — particularly Jammu and Kashmir. The governor, who was home secretary of the country, recalled his goodwill mission visits to Central Asian countries in the early 1990s and the difficult situations pertaining in those countries at the time. He also recalled useful work done by the India International Centre, New Delhi, to organise an international conference that brought out the history, culture and polity of Central Asian states in the early years after Soviet Russia&’s break-up. The IIC released a publication that contained papers presented by Indian and Central Asian scholars. This was done to make these countries better known and to revive India&’s centuries-old relations with them.
   He also referred to the good work being done by Rajeev Sethi, founder of the Asian Heritage Foundation, to revive, preserve and showcase symbols of India&’s rich cultural heritage. Vohra added that such initiatives could go a long way to foster better understanding and could contribute towards sustainable relations with Central Asian countries.
   Union minister for foreign affairs, Salman Khurshid spoke in detail about Indian efforts to seek global peace, security and cooperation. He spoke about Indian initiatives to strengthen ties and trade links with Central Asian countries.
  Dr Rashpal Malhotra, executive vice-chairman, CRRID, dwelt on activities of the organisation and the aims and objectives of why this conference was organised. He read out a message that was sent by the Prime Minister for the conference.
   Dr SS Gill, director general, CRRID, gave details about the establishment as well as the evolution, history, growth and activities of CRRID. He said the conference was an indicator of long-term cooperation between CRRID and Kashmir University. Professor Aijaz A Bandey, director, CCAS, spoke about the work done by the organisation over the last 35 years.
    The governor, who is also chancellor of Kashmir University, congratulated the CRRID, CCAS and University of Kashmir for organising an international conference on such an important theme. Professor Talat Ahmad, vice-chancellor, Kashmir University, urged Salman Khurshid to provide CCAS scholars with an opportunity to do internships in the ministry of external affairs. He thanked the governor and the chief minister for their valuable support in the growth of the university.