Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday presented a series of supposed alternatives for Kashmir’s youth to aspire to – “terrorism or tourism”, “pelting stones or cutting stones”, the latter presumably to build the Chenani-Nashri tunnel, which he had inaugurated earlier in the day. Modi was addressing a public meeting at Udhampur after flagging off the construction of the tunnel, which will be the country’s longest and reduce the travel time between Chenani and Nashri by two hours.

Modi cautioned the state’s young people against participating in violent protests in the Valley, saying “nobody has benefitted from the bloodshed and it will never help anyone”. Modi repeatedly used the tunnel as a metaphor for his development agenda in Kashmir, saying it would take help farmers transport their produce to Delhi and boost tourism in the state. In doing so, he suggested that such initiatives would help take the focus away from the militancy that has dominated the state’s politics for the past 40 years, adding that the government’s plans to make nine more tunnels like this one would be “links to connecting hearts”.

The tunnel road – constructed at a cost of Rs 2,519 crore – will reduce the distance between Chenani and Nashri to 10.9 km from the current 41 km. Singh said the new route will save fuel worth nearly Rs 99 crore annually and Rs 27 lakh per day and also serve as an alternative to the highway that is often affected by rain and snow.

Before he arrived in Jammu and Kashmir, Modi had attended the 150th anniversary celebrations for the Allahabad high court, where he had expounded on how the judiciary can adopt new technology to speed up trials in long-pending cases.