What Dr. Sabit Subasic, Bosnia and Herzegovinian Ambassador said during his recent visit to Kashmir is on the front page of all local dailys in Kashmir. However, what he said “the intractable conflict in Kashmir valley has drastically affected the state’s economic growth and that the tourism sector has been a victim of negative publicity” is nothing new. It is very unfortunate that we just keep lamenting about the situation and on ground deal it with “much ado about nothing” attitude”.
The problem is known, the cause is known and the solution seems blurred. But does that mean we just sit over it and mull? What he emphasized on and what is to be taken a note of is that the “long lasting conflict in Kashmir is a big hurdle for economic growth”. Every Kashmiri has felt the heat of the wobbly economy of Kashmir at some point or the other.
Undoubtedly, the tourism industry has a huge potential. With 20% of the workforce directly or indirectly involved in tourism, it is logical and reasonable to invest in this area. But same time there is also a need to overcome the over-dependence on tourism and develop alternative sources of revenue. A broad concept and strategy to attract more tourists needs to be formulated. Probably, all the stakeholders associated with the tourism need to work hard to promote Kashmir as a tourist destination. The development of unexplored areas like rural tourism can be explored. This will help engage the rural population and improve the overall economic stability of the region. They should work to create a better image, to minimize negative attitude effects and suspicions
Kashmir’s economy is centered on agriculture. Its temperate climate is suited for crops like asparagus, artichoke, sea kale, broad beans, scarlet runners and other temperate foods. Fruit trees like pears, apples, plums, peaches, and cherries are found in abundance. Trees like deodar, firs and pines, chinar, maple, birch and walnut, apple, cherry adorn the valley. Export of these to national and international markets needs to be channelized effectively.
Kashmir is famous for Cashmere Wool “Pashmina” which is exported to other regions and nations. Kashmiris are well adept at knitting and making shawls, silk carpets, rugs, kurtas, and pottery. Animal husbandry needs to be further developed to maximize export.
The Kashmir valley is also known for silk farming and cold water fisheries. Wood from Kashmir is used to make high-quality cricket bats, known as Kashmir Willow. Kashmiri saffron is also very famous and can bring the state a handsome amount of foreign exchange. Art and Handicraft like silver-work, paper mache, wood-carving, and the weaving of silk are other areas which need correct marketing.
Presently Kashmir has reduced to a high-cost mountain economy, dependent chiefly on tourism revenue. This over dependence (which in turn is dependent on the security situation prevalent) needs to be reduced and other sources of revenue need to be meticulously planned and implemented to revive the sluggish economy of Kashmir.
The locals should realize that militancy, repeated strikes, ATM loots, stone pelting incidents, negative videos on social media etc. are the reason for the deep mistrust created between tourists and Kashmir. Recently, six foreign tourists, including two women, who were returning from Kargil in a taxi where held hostage by the Kashmiri locals, who accused them of braid-chopping. Such incidents further mar the image of Kashmir. With the country ongoing a rapid economic revolution, it should be stressed that Kashmir too needs to be a part of that, and ensure that all the formulated plans are executed with precision.