Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh: Too early to consider Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act withdrawal, PM commissions the 450 MW Baglihar Hydro Electric Project; PM flags off first train in Kashmir valley
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  • In a fresh attempt to reach out to separatists in J&K, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh offered to hold talks with all sections of people including those who have stayed out of the political process. "The Government will welcome dialogue with all sections of people. This also includes who have so far opted to stay out of the political process," said Dr. Singh in Srinagar on October 10. Singh’s remarks assume significance as the dialogue channel between the Centre and separatists has run into rough weather for last four years. Asked about the demand of separatists for tripartite dialogue involving Kashmiris in the Indo-Pak peace process, Dr. Singh said "we are not opposed to a dialogue with any section in Kashmir’s public opinion … If any separatist group wants to meet with the government, they are welcome … Before I jump to the issue of tripartite negotiations, let us explore all bilateral options”. Singh further added that it was too early for withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act. "It is too early, frankly, to consider this. If the situation begins to normalise, we have to review it. The situation today is not that sort. I can’t assure you," he said1.

    Also on October 10, Dr Singh commissioned the 450 MW Baglihar Hydro Electric Project (BHEP). The Rs 5,500 crore project built over River Chenab, which is expected to help the state generate a revenue of Rs 900 crore, was dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister. Addressing a public meeting on the occasion, Dr Singh noted that in the implementation of project, special care has been taken to ensure that "genuine concerns" of Pakistan were taken care of so that it has no complaints in this regard.
    Pakistan had approached the World Bank in 2005 alleging that the power project was being built in violation of the Indus Water Treaty signed by the two countries in 1960 and apprehended it would divert water from its territory. He said that work on the second phase of the power plant with a capacity of 450 MW would be started very soon2.

    Meanwhile, the Kashmir’s first train service was inaugurated by Dr Singh on October 11, realizing a long-cherished dream of the people of the state. Dr Singh flagged off the first train from Srinagar Railway Station at Nowgam. In the first phase, the train will run from Rajwansher to Anantnag, covering a distance of 66 kilometers. However, connecting the Kashmir valley to the rest of the country through train still remained a distant dream though work on the Udhampur-Qazigund project was going on3.