Srinagar: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi Tuesday flew into a tense Srinagar on a two-day trip to Jammu and Kashmir, a day after terrorists shot dead eight soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks in the state on the Indian Army.
The visit was meant to focus on the economic development of the state, including a critical rail link between the Kashmir and Jammu regions, but the Monday terror attack cast a dark shadow.
Both Manmohan Singh and Gandhi paid tributes to the soldiers killed when they addressed a public rally at Kishtwar in Jammu region after the former laid the foundation stone for a 850 MW hydro power project.
The soldiers were killed when they were returning to their unit after a vacation. The Pakistan-backed Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack.
Saying that terrorists will never succeed in Kashmir, Manmohan Singh told a public rally at the Kishtwar stadium attended by hundreds that India was united in the fight against terrorism.
Manmohan Singh and Gandhi then flew into Srinagar, and first called on the soldiers wounded in Monday's attack and warded at the Badami Bagh cantonment area.
A heavily-guarded cavalcade took them to the Raj Bhawan, on the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range in Srinagar, even as the summer capital of the state virtually shut down.
Authorities imposed restrictions in the old city part of Srinagar as well as many uptown areas Tuesday.
Pedestrian and vehicular movement was barred in the old city while similar restrictions were in force at other areas.
Shops, businesses and educational institutions were shut and public transport was suspended in Srinagar, the urban hub of a dragging separatist campaign.
Separatists used the occasion to call a shutdown to protest against the visit.
Manmohan Singh also released a commemorative postage stamp to honour the 20th century Kashmiri poet Mehjoor.
Later, he and Gandhi will co-chair a meeting of the state cabinet with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to review the implementation of the prime minister's Rs.37,000-crore reconstruction package for the state.
The prime minister will inaugurate a 10.96-km railway tunnel across the Pir Panjal mountain that would connect the landlocked Kashmir Valley with Banihal town of Jammu region.
Built at a cost of Rs.1,300 crore, the tunnel will provide a rail link between the two regions and cut the distance between Qazigund town in the valley's Anantnag district and Banihal town by 17 km.
The 300-km Srinagar-Jammu highway often gets blocked in winter by snow.
Earlier, Chief Minister Abdullah Tuesday said that Jammu and Kashmir would have faced difficulties but for the Congress-led UPA government in New Delhi.
"Whenever we have financial requirements, we ask the UPA government for support. We get it freely for development of the state and its people," he told the Kishtwar rally.
"If a government not as friendly as the UPA were to be at the centre, Jammu and Kashmir will be in difficulty," he added.
Abdullah also condemned Monday's killing of eight soldiers.