Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Turning the LOC into a "Line of Commerce" would bring peace and prosperity to the region

If good governance takes hold in Kashmir, the possibilities are endless. Bilal Hussain examines the future where the LoC is transformed into a Line of Commerce that brings strength and stability to the State.

(Mr. Bilal Hussain, 28, was born and raised in Srinagar. He went to the CASET Experimental High School, and the S.P. College, Srinagar. He has a Master's degree in Finance and Control (MFC) from the Kashmir University. He worked as a financial writer and analyst for a telecom start-up company before joining Greater Kashmir staff as a writer/sub-editor in 2007. His personal interests are reading, writing, and internet surfing.)

Economic Unification will fetch Rs 12000 Crores

Separatists demand JK's inclusion in SAARC, duty-free access to Indo-Pak markets

Srinagar, March 15: The debate on economic unification of the divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir is gaining momentum with the separatists seeking inclusion of the 'united J&K' in the seven-member South Asian economic bloc, SAARC. There are also voices favoring the conversion of LoC into a 'line of commerce' through an open market formula in which two parts of Kashmir will have a duty-free access to both Indian as well as Pakistani markets.

Experts here believe the perpetual blockade of the traditional routes across the Line of Control (LoC), which divides J&K between India and Pakistan, has an estimated annual trade potential of whopping Rs 12000 Crore.

Islamic Students League leader Shakeel Bakhshi believes that this huge loss could be made good if the 'J&K Union' was included in SAARC. "The economic union would bring fruits only if J&K would get the SAARC membership of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). By this we would be able to get patents for our indigenous products," Bakhshi told Rising Kashmir.The economic unification, he added, is the extension of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) leading towards a customs union, common market and economic union.

Kashmir University's noted Dean of Social sciences, Professor Nisar Ali, said the economic union of the divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir humanitarian, social and economic dimensions."The line of control besides being a physical blockade has proved to be the economic barrier between two parts of J&K," added Professor Ali who has also carried out a research regarding the economic prospects of throwing the LoC open for trade and communications. "Economic unification would mean duty free movement of goods, labor and services across LoC. A variety of products including handicrafts could be traded across LoC," he said adding that the blockade of trade routes has not allowed the fullest exploitation of economic resources on either side of the dividing line.

Peoples Conference Chairman Sajjad Lone who had drawn flak from BJP for his 'Muslim Kashmir' demand, which he aired past year, told Rising Kashmir that carving out a single economic union out of two separate sub-entities, which have distinct political and geographical status, was possible. According to him a single economic entity would mean free flow of capital, trade, services and labor. Economic operations across the LoC and the removal of barriers to movement are perhaps the most profound visible indicators of change psychological unification.

Citing his economic model that he has included in his Achievable Nationhood Sajjad said, "Goods of J&K economic union would have duty-free access into India and Pakistan. This means that the J & K economic union would be able to service both the Indian and the Pakistani markets. Apart from that compared to the existing situation two parts of J&K would be able to service each other's markets. The synergistic size of the market is 1+1=4. The base union of two parts of J&K would be able to service four markets India, Pakistan, J&K (India) and J&K (Pakistan)."

International Business expert, department of commerce Kashmir University, Mohammad Shafi said, "The J&K would become economic hub for both countries. This will usher in an era of economic progress."According to him the trade across LoC would mean exchange of goods and services. "Forwarding agents, exporters, transporters, growers in short every body would get financially benefited," he added. Trade can take place between two parties when comparative advantage of goods and services are there then only we can exchange them. "We have comparative advantage in handicrafts likewise they would have advantage in some other sectors which we can trade," he said adding that the proximity of market was an added advantage that should be utilized.

But Sajjad Lone feels that such trade cooperation had been a norm between contiguous markets but was abandoned post World War II. "General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT) was seen as an instrument of promoting world peace. This helped to bring countries like Germany back to the world economic system," he pointed out.

Sajjad quoted the example of the European Union where, he believes, centuries old political rivalries could not deter the nations to exploit the benefits of economics. "This,", he says, " facilitated the moves that brought these states together in pursuit of economic objectives with spill over effects spreading to other sectors at a very fast pace."

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