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NOVEMBER 2001 Contents
Omar Abdullah is the scion of one of the most distinguished families of Kashmir. He represents modern India, is energetic, articulate, and in his two brief years as a Minister in the Capital, he has made a positive impact on Indian politics.
Omar Abdullah, at 31, is the youngest Minister in the Indian Cabinet. He is the Junior Foreign Minister and has also been the Junior Minister for Commerce and Industry in the Centre. He is the only son of Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, and the grandson of the mighty Sheikh Abdullah. His mother is Mollie Abdullah and wife Payal Abdullah – a truly secular family. As Minister for Commerce and Industry, Omar was part of the team responsible for the successful marketing of India Inc as a destination for investment. Omar’s visibility has increased in the recent past – as a result of his new responsibility in the Foreign Ministry. Seen often on television, and quoted widely in newspapers, he is the third generation Abdullah in politics. The recent attempts on his life have not deterred Omar from appearing in public or letting his views be known. He was elected to the Parliament, for the second time in 1999, from Srinagar as the National Conference (his father’s party) candidate.
The Abdullah family has, since independence in 1947, stood for Jammu & Kashmir being a part of India and the National Conference has contended for the autonomy of Kashmir. Omar upholds the belief of both the family and the party, "Kashmir was, is and will be an integral part of India.
Autonomy is only the means to strengthen this bond." Omar’s father, Farooq Abdullah, the present Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, advocates converting the present Line of Control (LOC) into an international border between Pakistan and India. Omar supports him, and in an interview with Maseeh Rahman of Time Asia, he gave his reasons for doing so. "The logic for that is very simple: what you haven't had for the last 54 years, you're not going to get back. India has fought three wars with Pakistan over Kashmir, but hasn't got back an inch of territory. So, according to my father, the time has come to be a little more realistic, and give autonomy not just to Jammu & Kashmir but also to what is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir."
He was only 29 when he first became a Minister. By his own admission, his learning curve "was very steep." While he was Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, money was sanctioned by the Commerce Ministry to build a Software Technology Park in Srinagar, which would provide microwave connectivity to smaller technology parks elsewhere in the state.
Last year, Omar Abdullah was on his way to a girls’ school in Srinagar city centre, when the militants struck at the school. They were unable to target him, but nevertheless attacked the school and the school children. An upset Omar remarked "What upsets me is that they decidedto target a school. I can't believe that any religion or any cause, no matter how sacred to its followers, justifies an attack on innocent schoolgirls." Until this incident, it was Omar’s father who had been the target of militant attacks. Omar’s moderate views and down-to-earth rationale may be irking these militants – most of whom he considers mercenaries who violate peoples' rights.
Omar would like to see the Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave the valley, return to the homes they left. "We are constantly striving to create conditions that are conducive for the return of our Kashmiri Pandit brothers and sisters. We want them to return with dignity and honour and of their own free will, free of coercion.…we will never have done enough until they are all back home living together, keeping the spirit of Kashmiriyat alive."
Educated in Bombay (Mumbai) and Scotland, Omar holds a Masters degree in Business Administration. He is widely travelled, enjoys reading, and is a keen sportsman – skiing, swimming, tennis and squash being his favourite sports. Omar has two sons and wishes to see them "grow up in the same peaceful Kashmir that I had the privilege of growing up in. When asked on the role his wife plays in his life, Omar said, "She plays the most important role -- by making sure that I have a home to come back to, by shouldering the entire responsibility of raising our two boys and at the same time looking after her travel business. She is also an impartial sounding board and harsh critic where she feels I have been wrong. It’s a good partnership and helps me keep my feet planted firmly on the ground."
Omar Abdullah is the scion of one of the most distinguished families of Kashmir. He represents modern India, is energetic, articulate, and in his two brief years in the Capital, has made a positive impact on Indian politics.
(This article was compiled from information derived from various sources on the net and television, including India Today’s Internet Chat with Omar Abdullah.)
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