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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.

Thedraft reporturges"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 hasnoted: "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 pageeconomic 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 andagriculture. 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 recognisesthe economic and investment potential of the state, but the political barrier of Article 370 andchauvinistic politics of Kashmir political groups, be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani's Hurriyat Conference orNational Conference, have kept thestate away from development," commentedState unit BJP ChiefAshok Khajuria.

He suspected that Pakistanis opposing the report at all the world forums because it isafraid 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 Partychief DrakshanAndrabi, who is leading a campaign forrecognition of"Indian virtues" in Kashmir,said, "that our leaders are unable to see beyond themselves."

"It was obvious when they all joined handsto stall auction ofland inGulmarg for development of thetourist 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 leadershipplayed a myopic game."

The Jammu and Kashmir Government had decided to auctionnearly70 acres of land in Gulmarg, atourist resort, about 55 kms north of Srinagarto locals, who couldenter into collaboration withoutsiders 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 theinvestment from outsiders.

Eventhe National Conference hadopposed themove and held protests, forcing the government to put the auction move on the hold.

"It is this kind of politicsof self destruction by the leaders, whohave perfected the art of twisting emotions and fuellingseparatist tendencies that has kept the state backward and deprived of thebenefits of globalisation," said Andrabi.

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First Published: Jan 30, 2007 15:31 IST