Mufti hits a hole-in-one
Written by The Indian Express   
Thursday, 22 May 2003



Mufti hits a hole-in-one


It’s only a beginning but peace-through-golf is a clever idea

Harinder S. Sikka


Hundreds of tiny white missiles were fired in Srinagar this weekend. And mostly by foreigners, many of them visiting J&K’s capital for the first time. No one, fortunately, got hurt. Instead, local Kashmiris got a taste of power golf!


The diplomats and heads of MNCs who took part in J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed unique peace initiative through golf went back reasonably convinced that the valley was no longer reverberating to the sound of guns. It was also apparent that all the participants were mesmerised, both by the scenic beauty of Srinagar and that of what is possibly one of the best golf courses in the world: The Royal Spring Golf Course. Surrounded by dense jungle on either side, it was a treat to watch jackals, deer and other wildlife crossing the fairways at will.



The presence of the visiting dignitaries was well publicised in the local media and a smiling carpet seller, Liaqat Ali, spoke for many when he said, ‘‘It’s great news and we hope to see the valley returning to its former days of glory.” He added, “Inshaallah, I’ll be able to afford a good education for my grandchildren if the situation changes at this pace.’’


Another sign that normalcy was returning could be gauged from the fact that numerous shikaras were being painted afresh in bright yellow and red. Houseboats owners, too, it appears were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.


The chief minister, in an exclusive one-to-one chat, spoke of his dreams of giving Kashmir back its good old days. ‘‘Tourism is the backbone of the valley and provides livelihood to millions. It is imperative that once the logistical support from across the border dries up, the terror groups would have nowhere to go but to fall in line with the peace process. Moreover, to sustain terror, it is vital to have the support of local citizens, which the mercenaries do not command now. Kashmiris have seen for themselves the dividends of peace.’’


There are still sporadic incidents of violence, of course. But when compared to the past, or indeed what is happening in other parts of the country, especially Bihar, they fade somewhat. The road to complete recovery is still full of roadblocks and negotiating them needs careful assessment. Having become used to easy money and lawlessness, the foreign mercenaries will not give up in a hurry. Fundamentalists living on both sides of the border, too, would find it difficult to justify their existence. Add to that the continuing assistance to militant activity from elements within Pakistan, and the complexity of the situation comes into full view.


It is, therefore, of vital importance to provide jobs to the Kashmiri youth, who are otherwise whiling away their time doing nothing and who can get sucked into the quicksand of militancy. As long as tourism thrived, large sections of the population were kept busy.


The Ambassadors Cup event is just one effort to rev up this sector and could yet prove a great beginning. The diplomats who teed off on the greens will surely be India’s messengers of peace. By all accounts, therefore, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed—an amateur golfer himself— has succeeded in hitting his first hole-in-one.


(The writer is senior president, Corporate Affairs, Nicholas Piramal India)
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