Kashmir is an internal issue: Rahul Gandhi

Badgam (Jammu and Kashmir), June 15 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said Saturday that India should address the Kashmir problem as an internal issue instead of bothering who rules Pakistan.

At an impromptu press conference on the sidelines of a function here, Gandhi sought to say that Kashmir should be delinked from the issue of who governs Pakistan.

'The way I look at it, the real change has to come from within. We cannot be dependent on what is going on in the rest of the world,' he said.

He was asked if the change of government in Islamabad would lead to progress in resolving the festering Jammu and Kashmir problem.

Gandhi said the central government's focus was on finding out ways to involve the people of Kashmir and ensuring job opportunities for the young in the state.

'Our focus is on how we can involve the people of Kashmir, how we can involve them in the government at the local level, how we can ensure that youngsters have jobs.

'Whether the leadership in Pakistan is good or bad is not in our hands,' he said.

Replying to another question, Gandhi said the Congress-led UPA government had transformed the mood in Kashmir.

'There is massive progress in Kashmir, there is a progress in the sentiment of the people, there is progress in the connectivity Kashmir is having, there is progress in tourism.

'So we are on an upward forward path and we are not going to go back. We are going to ensure that the people of Kashmir get the development they deserve.'

He declined to comment on the state government's demand for revocation of the widely criticized Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

'It is a discussion between the prime minister and the chief minister. It is not appropriate for me to make a statement,' Gandhi said.

'I am quite proud of the work we are doing in Jammu and Kashmir. We are working together, the state government and the central government.

'Of course, every now and then there are issues which come up which we deal with,' he said, replying a question on differences between the Congress and the National Conference.

He declined to say if the two parties would stick together in the next assembly elections.

'These are matters not for me to delve into. These are matters decided within their party and within our party. We have a healthy constructive relationship and we are working together.'

At a personal level, Gandhi said: 'Kashmir is very important to me. I come from Kashmir historically. I would like to see participation of women at the local level.

'And I would like to see Kashmir progress possibly as one of the fastest progressing states in the country.'

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