PM opens rail link, Sonia says Kashmiris want peace

Banihal (Jammu and Kashmir), June 26 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday opened India's longest rail tunnel in Kashmir to provide a key link between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, even as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said that Kashmiris were fed up with violence.

Hours before ending a two-day visit to the troubled state, Manmohan Singh rode with school children on the inaugural run of the train through the 10.96-km-long tunnel to link Qazigund town in the valley with Banihal in Jammu region.

The prime minister warmly shook hands with the overjoyed children and sat with them as the diesel train made its way from Banihal through the winding tunnel, an engineering marvel that took seven years to come up in a mountainous region.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and central Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister, were with the prime minister in the train.

After reaching Qazigund, Manmohan Singh went back on the same train to Banihal where he told a meeting attended by hundreds of people that the new train link will boost Jammu and Kashmir's economic development.

"Today, we are dedicating a marvellous and wonderful feat of engineering crafted across the Himalayas," he said. "This is not just an engineering marvel, but an all weather link between the valley and the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.

"This will usher in a new era in the development of the state, providing welfare and employment to the people here."

The rail bridge between Udhampur and Banihal -- the train runs through the Pir Panjal mountain range -- is the highest in the world.

The tunnel was built at a cost of Rs.1,300 crores. An eight-coach train will operate on the route from June 27. The link cuts the distance between Qazigund and Banihal towns by 18 km.

"I want to assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that (my) government will extend all possible support for the development of the people here," the prime minister said.

As he spoke in Urdu, Manmohan Singh struck a chord with the people at the rally. He was cheered each time he spoke about ushering development in the state.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi told the rally that the people of Jammu and Kashmir "are fed up with violence. They want peace and development...

"I know very well that painful incidents happen here occasionally but our democracy has enough scope to sort out issues through dialogue and negotiations."

The inauguration of the rail link and the public rally marked the end of their visit to Jammu and Kashmir during which Manmohan Singh laid the foundation of a hydro-electric project on the Chenab river in Jammu region and took part in two events in the Kashmir Valley.

Srinagar, the summer capital of the state and the urban hub of the separatist campaign, remained tense for a second straight day Wednesday as security forces enforced restrictions for VVIP protection.

Motorists mostly stayed off the roads while people preferred to stay indoors. And although Srinagar was calm, militants shot dead a businessman turned politician in the northern town of Sopore Wednesday.

Kifayat Hussain was killed from close range when he was talking on the telephone near a petrol pump. He had contested the 2008 assembly elections from Sopore.

On Monday, two guerrillas sneaked out of a lane to carry out a deadly ambush of an army convoy in Srinagar, killing eight soldiers and wounding over a dozen.

On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh and Gandhi also called on the wounded soldiers at a military base. The prime minister wished them speedy recovery.

Later, he told a meeting that terrorism would never succeed in Kashmir and that India was united in the war against terror.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Moores set for England recall

Moores set for England recall

The 51-year-old will succeed Andy Flower, who stepped down after five years in charge following the 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia in January. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »