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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

With Tourism Having Tanked, Can the Cross Border Commerce Bring Some Hope?

As the tourist trade sinks, the hope shifts to upcoming visit by a Pakistani business delegation (two related stories)

Pak business delegation to visit state

Jammu: A 15-member traders’ delegation from Pakistan-administered Kashmir is scheduled to arrive in Jammu and Kashmir later this month to finalise commerce between the two parts of the state.

According to official sources here, the delegation will be arriving in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, Sep 22 to hold talks with Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) and other business organisations to finalise the cross border trade between the divided parts of the state.

The delegation, said the sources, would also hold meetings with the state government officials and hold similar talks here Sep 25 and 26.

‘A list of articles to be traded (across the de facto border between India and Pakistan) has been prepared by either side. They include 13 Pakistani items that can come to this side while there are about 26 Indian items that can go there,’ said president of Chamber of Commerce and Industries in Jammu Ram Sahai.

Pakistani items that can be marketed in Indian Kashmir include precious stones, namdas (small rough wool embroidered carpets), furniture, medicinal herbs, embroidered items, pinenuts, spices, dry seeds, dry dates, Bengal grams, pulses and rock salt.

Traders from this side of the border would be sending carpets, wall hangings, paper machie, shawls, crewel embroidery, Kashmiri woolen products, cricket bats, silk, Kashmiri dry fruits, Kashmiri wazwan (special food delicacies), basmati rice, fresh fruits, black mushroom, red kidney beans and green tea besides other items.

The trade is expected to start from two points — Uri-Muzaffarabad in the Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawalakot in the Jammu region.

A similar delegation from Indian side of Kashmir will be visiting Pakistani side in October this year to give final touches to the quantum and tune of trade to be carried out between two sides,’ said the officials.

The trade between the two parts of Kashmir is expected to start in late October.(ENS)

Turbulence trounces tourist industry: More than hundred thousand would-be-tourists back out

Srinagar: At least 1,50,000 tourists have cancelled their trip to the Valley during past two months of uncertainty in the State causing a huge loss to the tourist industry- the backbone of the State economy. According to official figures, more than one and a half lac tourists have dropped the idea of spending their holidays in the Valley during past two months owing to the ongoing turmoil in the State.

Tourist industry, considered as a backbone of state economy, has incurred huge loss as the main season of tourist influx- June to September- witnessed a sudden uprise of people against transfer of land to Amarnath Shrine Board by the State government. With the onset of summers, hundreds of thousands of tourists started pouring in to the Valley from within the country and abroad. But the land row forced these tourists to cut short their visits and they started fleeing from the Valley as soon as protests against land transfer started picking up.

It would be pertinent to mention that during past few years, number of tourists, both national and international, had increased manifold as the normalcy, although for a short period, during these years had attracted tourists from all across the globe.All the sections of the society, directly or indirectly associated with the industry, have sustained losses and demand they be compensated by the government.“I had booked vehicles and hotels for two months before land controversy as the season seemed promising owing to the huge influx of tourists early this season. But the land controversy turned everything upside down,” said a tour operator Ghulam Muhammad, adding “Now it is my humble request to the authorities to compensate those who have incurred losses.”

Mushtaq Ahmad, who runs hotel at Boulevard road, while narrating his story of losses said “Come to my hotel and see it is deserted. It is really painful when you see all the rooms of hotel are vacant”.“Earlier this season, we had to return tourists who asked for the lodging as all the rooms were occupied”, he added.When asked about his business, Abdul Rehman, a Shikara owner, while pointing towards Boulevard road said, “The deserted look of this otherwise busy road tells everything”.

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