The proposed investors’ summit in J&K holds the potential to bring out the best of this State. However, Ladakh must not be left out

At the time of writing these lines, news had just come that the Jammu & Kashmir administration will host a three-day global investors’ summit from October 12 in Srinagar. Part of it will also be held in Jammu. An MoU has been signed by the Jammu & Kashmir Trade Promotion Organisation and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to organise and manage the event. Supposedly, the meet will give the State an opportunity to showcase its approach and a possibility of it entering the global market in a major way. It will also presumably put to rest some anxieties that have arisen due to recent changes in the functioning of the State. It should be a useful occasion to familiarise those who are interested in knowing the potential of the natural resources of this idyllic State and its infrastructure. This should not be a template meet like the ones that have been held in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal. Reasons for this are different. Natural resources found in Jammu & Kashmir are unlikely to be found in any other Indian State. And it’s not just the horticulture and a wide range of agricultural products but also raw materials and the perception there of. 

Consider the case of Taiwan, a small island in the East Asian region — small enough not to have any significant raw material but is large enough to innovate with foresight. Ceramic products of this nation is celebrated globally for their design and finesse. They range from tea cups to plaques. Their quality sets its own standards. Couple this with the place Taiwan has earned in the world of information technology, which is also the key to its incredible prosperity. The knowledgeable are aware that Taiwan has resources of foreign exchange in excess of its needs. Indeed, it also has all the problems of plenty. Learning from the example of Taiwan can be a source of policy challenges in its own right.

The hills of the Kashmir Valley and the rugged terrain of Udhampur or of the Kathua region hold a huge potential of literally converting the hill dust to aesthetic and functional products. What is needed is raw material and the vision to redesign products out of it. Some of this is already being done. It is now possible to buy from the markets of Kashmir tea sets or dinner sets, which are a visual and utilitarian delight. The only deficiency is that they do not have brand value. Whether the proposed investors’ summit will be able to plug this gap is an interesting question, to which, time alone can provide the answer. Clearly, it has to do much more than just famous names descending in the Valley to lend celebrity value to an area, which has already been reeling under severe challenges of mental recalibration. At this stage of development, equal attention needs to be paid to reconstructing mindsets as well. Locals were earning a livelihood and had the propensity to multiply the business under the pre-August 6 dispensation. The uninitiated would have to be helped to trust the new dispensation. They would begin to believe when results start rolling.

The unmatched skills of artisans in Jammu & Kashmir in Pashmina shawls and the sheer hard work on different types of base material have a rich potential of being converted into useful and marketable products. This can have a global demand, too. It can also leverage the income potential of a region, which is not always identified with prosperity but is always known for its acumen. Talking of tourism and fruit production is to talk about costs as well as gainful employment of a substantial part of the population. However, a much more significant dimension of the State’s economy is its potential in aesthetics and revenue generation, supported by business-friendly policies of the Government. What is needed is infrastructure for connectivity, which is now beginning to bloom. The skilled as well as unskilled manpower now has a lot of opportunities knocking at its door. They hold the potential of being unprecedented in its boom. Investment in this region and the coupling of the potential with possibilities may well open a new chapter for their trouble-riddled existence.

Hopefully, Ladakh will not be left out from the focus of the investment summit. With its own version of aesthetics and knowledge management of tribal products, this region has an untold story of humongous dimension. In a joint initiative, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) is organising a Aadi Mahotsav or National Tribal Festival in the third week of August. This is the first of its kind. It knocks at the door of immense possibilities. In a wonderful country like India, sky is not the limit of innovation and rediscovery. If it can soar anywhere, it can soar in India. Jammu & Kashmir may just be a fitting locale of TRIFED’s next frontier. The global investors meet could possibly pick up threads from there, too.