Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed,Tuesday sought bringing in global benchmarks in bolstering state’s critical areas like skill development, health and education, in which the government has already initiated measures to infuse fresh lease of life.
He also highlighted the need for taking tangible steps towards removing adverse travel advisories, which will come as a shot in the arm for the state’s tourism industry.
The Chief Minister made these observations here this afternoon while interacting at a luncheon meeting with a high-profile Australian delegation, comprising senators and a wide spectrum of professionals from Down Under.
The delegation included Chairman, Australia India Institute, Craig Jeffery, Chairman Bandigo Bank, Robert Johansson, Foreign Editor, The Australian, Greg Sheridan, Senator and former Australian Finance Minister, Penelope Ying Yen Wong, former Premier of Victoria, Edward Norman Baillieu, Chairman, Newscorp Australia, Penelope Fowler, Vice Chancellor, La Trobe University, Australia, John Dewar, Senator Tasmania, Lisa Maria Singh and First Secretary in the Australian High Commission, Tanya Shanti Spisbah.
While Lisa Maria Singh is the only senator of Indian origin in the Australian Parliament, Penelope Fowler is the niece of internationally-acclaimed media baron and owner of Newscorp, Rupert Murdoch.
Minister for Finance & Culture, Dr. Haseeb A. Drabu, Advisor to the Chief Minister, Prof. Amitabh Mattoo and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas were also present on the occasion.
Seeking greater cooperation in key areas like skill development, health and education, Mufti Sayeed said importation of best practices from Australia, which has set new benchmarks in quality, will provide substance to government’s endeavours to strengthen these sectors. “The transfer of knowledge will help us evaluate the measures we have taken and facilitate corrective measures wherever necessary,” the Chief Minister observed.
Prof. Mattoo informed the Chief Minister that most of the members in the delegation were on their maiden trip to India. He said the purpose of the exposure visit is to make the delegation take firsthand appraisal about J&K as a safe destination to travel to. “They will collect vital feedback which will help the Australian government to rethink on its advisory against travelling to J&K,” he stated.
The Chief Minister later gave an exclusive interview to the Foreign Editor, The Australian, Greg Sheridan.
Excerpts from the interview:
On relations with Pakistan:
“You can change friends, not neighbours. Gun is no solution. All issues between India and Pakistan have to be resolved across the table. In my first tenure as Chief Minister, there was perceptible improvement in relations and there were no skirmishes on borders” On cross-LoC trade / travel:
“The cross-LoC trade and travel between India and Pakistan is the biggest confidence building measure. We have two trade and travel points at Uri-Salamabad in Kashmir and Chakan da Bagh in Jammu division and we are working to broaden the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel further”
On alliance with BJP:
“Coalition with BJP gives government a truly representative character, which reflects its multicultural ethos. While we swept Kashmir, BJP won majority in Jammu. Our coalition is governed by the Agenda of the Alliance”
On J&K’s economy:
“Horticulture, handicraft and tourism, both leisure and pilgrim, are three key areas that drive J&K’s economy. The whole country is market for India, especially its 30-crore strong middle class”
On J&K’s scenic beauty and tourism:
“Can match any international leisure destination. Need to change negative perception, work towards removing adverse travel advisories. Seeing is believing. Please see things for yourselves. While footfall of tourists in Kashmir is from across the globe, Leh is popular amongst foreign travellers more, especially from South East nations. Jammu receives a large number of pilgrim tourists”