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Politics clouds J&K economic potential

The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee's draft report has focused on the economic potential of Jammu and Kashmir, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2007 15:31 IST
Arun Joshi

"There is a need for European Union multinationals to recognise the investment potential of Jammu and Kashmir", says a draft report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament but a section of leadership in the state feels that the state lags behind in economic progress because of "unnecessary political hullabaloo" barriers that exist between Kashmir and the rest of the country.

The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee's draft report, penned by its rapporteur and MEP, Emma Nicholson, has focused on the economic potential of Jammu and Kashmir.

The draft report urges "EU multinationals to recognise the investment potential of Jammu and Kashmir, and in particular the existence of a skilled, educated workforce on the Indian side."

It has also suggested that "European businesses might enter into joint ventures with local companies and that investment insurance schemes be created to boost investor confidence."

Even the state government's first–ever economic survey has noted: "J&K must adapt, indeed transform, its economy to secure the benefits of globalisation and the increasingly open global trading environment — trade policy for economies like J&K needs to be seen as part of overall economic strategy."

"Clear signals about the direction of trade and regulatory policies and the length of the transition periods will be needed to guide the process and to attract new investment," the 245 page economic survey said in the very first chapter "the state of economy."

For example, in the field of information technology, the survey sees Jammu and Kashmir having "tailor made conditions for an IT boom" — manpower and climatic conditions. Kashmir's climate is best suited for the IT and electronic industries.
It pointed out that though the IT industry is still a sunrise in Jammu and Kashmir, with the right intervention and incentives, it has the potential to grow very quickly to contribute much more to the economy.

This survey has also focused on the potential of the state in the fields of tourism, power, horticulture and agriculture. Power Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora said that the state has "registered potential of generating 20,000 MWs of power and 16,000 MWs of power generation has been identified."

"The world recognises the economic and investment potential of the state, but  the political barrier of Article 370 and chauvinistic politics of Kashmir political groups, be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani's Hurriyat Conference or National Conference, have kept the state away from development," commented State unit BJP Chief Ashok Khajuria.

He suspected that Pakistan is opposing the report at all the world forums  because it is afraid of the opening of economic doors for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. "Islamabad wants us to suffer and the Kashmiri leadership is a  party to the design of Pakistan."

Even Kashmiri women leaders feel that way. Democratic Socialist Party chief  Drakshan Andrabi, who is leading a campaign for recognition of "Indian virtues" in Kashmir, said, "that our leaders are unable to see beyond themselves."

"It was obvious when they all joined hands to stall auction of land in Gulmarg for development of the tourist resort. The five star hotels and luxurious resorts would have given a new look to the area and also generated employment for  our people," she observed.
Andrabi regretted that "the leadership played a myopic game."

The Jammu and Kashmir Government had decided to auction nearly 70 acres of land in Gulmarg, a tourist resort, about 55 kms north of Srinagar to locals, who could enter into collaboration with outsiders to set up hotels and resorts forhigh-spending tourists. But the move was strongly opposed by all separatist groups. Hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had led a campaign of protests and shutdowns, opposing the auction of land to the natives of the state for  constructing hotels with the investment from outsiders.

Even the National Conference had opposed the move and held protests, forcing the government to put the auction move on the hold.

"It is this kind of politics of self destruction by the leaders, who have perfected the art of twisting emotions and fuelling separatist tendencies that has kept the state backward and deprived of the benefits of globalisation," said Andrabi.

Email Arun Joshi: a_joshi957@rediffmail.com