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, May 31, 2008

Some Snippets from the International Seminar on Regional Economic Integration at the Kashmir University

Three aspects dealing with promises, data and challenges at the two day international seminar on Regional Economic Integration among South East Asian Countries at the University of Kashmir University organized by its Department of Economics in collaboration with International Institute for Development Studies (IIDS) Kolkata. The symposium was held on May 27-29, 2008.

Srinagar: In his welcome address G M Bhat Head department of Economics, University of Kashmir said that the importance of Regional Trade Agreements, role of FDI in economic growth, contribution of SAARC consortium prompted the department to organize a seminar where eminent economists could give their viewpoints. He added that today countries continue to remain integrated intraregional and interregional and good economics should be supported by good politics.

Vice-Chancellor Kashmir University, Riyaz Punjabi, while expressing his pleasure over holding of such a mega event said that in the backdrop of globalization which has unleashed a powerful competition of market forces, the theme of the seminar has a significant relevance and importance. Referring to the growing phenomenon of globalization Punjabi said that at cognitive levels globalization is affecting us and today we need greater economic integration in the region which will lead us into an era of progress and prosperity.

Punjabi said in view of its historical trade relations with Central Asia and other neighboring countries, Jammu and Kashmir has the potential to emerge as a hub of commercial activities for greater Asian economic integration. He hoped that that the special session on “Trans border Indo Pak Trading” would come out with relevant and appropriate inputs for the policy makers particularly in view of the pressing economic needs of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. R.K.Sen managing trustee IIDS during his address said “Integration of Asian countries is a must to meet the challenges of globalization.”

The Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Planning & Development Department of J&K, has for the first time compiled the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) of J&K which was released by the Governor J&K, S.K. Sinha at the international seminar on Regional Economic Integration among South East Asian Countries.

The Index of Industrial Production for the three consecutive years, i.e, 2004-05 to 2006-07, has been prepared after subsidizing the unavailability of monthly production data from different industrial units. The Annual Index of the three years for the J&K State has been reported to be 100.87,109.46 and 108.82 respectively which is very low than other states of India which has crossed the 200 mark.

"Although J&K Government is making sustained efforts for intensification and expanding the industrial base of the State but still J&K has not been able to attract investments in industrial sector and continues to remain an industrially backward state," says G.A. Qureshi, Director Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

"We hope that this index of Industrial Production (IIP) of the J&K from 2007-2008 under the proper consultation of IS-wing of Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Kolkata will be brought on monthly basis," Qureshi said.

The report shows that the index of manufacturing sector in J&K has increased from 94.35 in 2004-05 to 109.962 in 2005-06 and 102.09 in 2006-2007 registering an annual growth of 9.25 per cent in 2005-2006 with the negative growth of -0.96 per cent in 2006-07.

The manufacturing of electrical machinery and apparatus recorder 35.65 per cent growth followed by manufacturing of fabricated metal products with 18.45 per cent , textiles 8.63 per cent, chemical products 6.90 per cent and rubber and other plastic products 2.13 per cent. The other manufacturing of machinery and equipments, food products and beverages, wood products and other non-metallic mineral products recorded a total negative growth.

The Index of electricity sector showed an increase from 116.8 in 2004-05 to 136.35 in 2005-06 and 147.45 in 2006-2007 with an annual growth of 16.73 per cent and 8.14 per cent respectively.

The Index of mining and Quarrying sector showed a decrease from 123.44 in 2004-05 to 106.04 in 2005-06 and 90.44 in 2006-07 registering the negative growth of -13.45 and -15.35 respectively.

Finally, the challenge .....

President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalander on said that Cross LoC trade should act a platform to solve the ultimate Kashmir problem otherwise it is not useful. Qalander stressed on the basics of trade saying “We have to look for three aspects of the cross LoC trade; what to trade, how to trade, why to trade, it will clear our vision regarding this cross LoC trade” “We are not clear about the profit and modalities are also not finalized, and when we are not self sufficient how can this trade be profitable for us” said Qalander. Showing the pessimistic attitude towards the cross LoC trade Qalander said “This trade will fulfill the political designs and nothing else.” “If this trade will help in solving the broader conflict then the business community of Kashmir is ready to co-operate” said Qalander.

However, President Kashmir Chamber Of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Mubeen Shah, while presenting his paper said “Cross LoC trade is a good step and it will have a positive effect on the business of Kashmir as whole.”“Kashmir should be recognized as Special Economic Zone in order to get benefits from changing economic scenario” said Mubeen Shah. “We can concentrate on horticulture, handicrafts, silk producing expertise in order to reach to the inaccessible markets of Pakistan and Iran” said KCCI president.

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