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Teeing off to drive away militancy
Priya Solomon in New Delhi |
May 23, 2003 18:17 IST
When Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the opposition used to ridicule him for his indulgence in golf.
There are, in fact, stories of how he would take off for the state secretariat from his Gupkar Road residence and midair ask the pilot to fly to Gulmarg to tee off.
But his critic and successor, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has realised the virtues of the game, or rather what it can bring to the state in terms of long-term investment.
On May 17 and 18, the Mufti kicked off golf diplomacy in an effort to attract foreign and domestic tourists to Kashmir.
The state tourism department organised the Ambassadors' Cup at the picturesque Royal Springs Golf Course and, barring those directly involved in the Kashmir issue, the government invited envoys from many missions in Delhi.
While the American, British and French envoys were absent others cherished the experience in its entirety.
The High Commissioner of Singapore, Seechak Mul, who was on his first visit to Srinagar said, "It was a very pleasant experience and the course is tough. It is meant for professional tournaments and was very challenging." He added that the far-way was very narrow and because the grass was tall it was difficult to find the ball. An avid golfer himself, he hoped to be a part of the regular tournaments there.
Many non-golfers and some learners were also part of the first-of-its-kind tournament. The Czech Ambassador, Jaromir Novotny, was one. "It was a well organised event. I am trying to golf. This course is the most stunning of the ones I have seen so far. It looks stunning with one side the snow peaks of the Himalayas and the other side a nice view of the Dal Lake."
He, too, felt the course was a difficult one. His wife, Dana, who was also trying to learn golf, enjoyed the experience.
The visitors were also taken for sightseeing and for an exhibition of Pashmina shawls and Persian carpets.
Other participants included Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee president Ghulam Nabi Azad and several industrialists.
During their stay in the valley, the envoys got to interact with the Mufti, Governor Girish Chandra Saxena and other officials.
As far as security was concerned, the diplomats felt they were 'well-protected'. At the end of the day, everyone went home smiling.
A day later, Farooq Abdullah said he was relieved that 'wisdom has prevailed on Sayeed, who was planning to convert this world-class golf course into a forest and a grazing ground'.