CPSD - Commentary

The Valley of Kashmir - A Forgotten Narrative

The valley of Kashmir has been in a state of quagmire and fluctuating violence for decades with persistent attempts of changing its social demographics to outright genocide of the indigenous Kashmiris. The prolonged occupation by Indian forces of Kashmir is taking a deleterious toll on the culture, life and economics of the people of Kashmir.

The 1947 partition led to the occupation of half of Kashmir by the Indian state. Perpetual occupation is exercising detrimental effect on the social and economic lives of the people of Kashmir. Historically, dozens of conflict resolutions were forwarded to resolve the protracted state of conflict between India and Pakistan and give Kashmiris their fundamental human right for self-preservation and self-determination.

Yet, after more than 7 decades, the continuing occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state is damaging the social, cultural and economic architecture of the region. It can be argued that a plethora of conflict resolutions which were presented to resolve the Kashmir conflict were more in accordance with the political and strategic dimensions of the region rather than underscoring the social and economic dimensions of the People of Kashmir, and by extension the region itself.

Providing the historical context under which conflict resolutions were forwarded, it is necessary for Pakistan to develop a holistic approach toward engaging Kashmir issue on international stage by accommodating a full range of socio-economic facets of Kashmir aside from its political and strategic importance. Additionally, Pakistan also need to focus on its side of Kashmir – the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) – by formulating a development-intensive strategy.

In this holistic approach for conflict resolution, Pakistan can integrate various facets of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) history, geography, culture, lifestyle, economics and heritage. Moreover, with the projection of socio-economic paradigm in conflict resolution, it will also inculcate a cultural relativism in the global comity of nations for the People of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

The captivating geography of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) which is stretched from the mountains of Himalayans to the Pir Panjal can serve to enthrall tourists seeking magnificent sight-seeing tours. Nature has graced with an enterprising set of natural and heritage attracting tourism sites which can become a fulcrum for augmenting tourism and assist in generating a Kashmir narrative.

Mass media of Pakistan can utilize this magnificent and heavenly scenery of AJK by opening their subsidiaries in the region to project the scenic beauty of the valley. Furthermore, television production house in Pakistan can embark on initiatives into exploring the scenic beauty and culture of the People of AJK.

Aside from the soft portrayal of ravishing valley to the global community, the people of Kashmir also receive a limelight as production houses should employ local populace in developing dramas and film-making.

Besides natural landscapes, AJK is rich in human resources with a literacy rate of 74% and in the FY 2017-18, the AJK government allocated 8% from its total budget in education. This vast pool of human resources equipped with great literacy rate can be amassed to project a Kashmir narrative.

Universities in Pakistan in collaboration with private business sector can cultivate student-exchange programs with universities in AJK in order to enhance inter-cultural understanding among the People of Kashmir and give the people of other parts of Pakistan an exposure into the life and culture of the People of Kashmir.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir have an alluring blend of handicrafts and language, cuisine and attire, festivals and dance, which embellishes its culture and life. The handicraft industry of AJK could be utilize for the socio economic uplift of people. Business groups in Karachi can dedicate their investment in handicraft industry to uplift the economic wellbeing of People of Kashmir on a sustainable basis.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir is gifted with minerals especially gems as proven mineral reserves are around 157 million ton (Rs 79 billion), which may reach up to 264 million tons with the addition of probable reserves. These Minerals include rubies and other semi-precious stones. This extraordinary possession of mineral resource can generate a huge amount of foreign exchange and provide employment opportunity to skilled human resource in the valley.

Additionally, 42.6% of the AJK area is covered with forest, which is an advantage from a global perspective because this forestry resource can be employed as a source of carbon credits to trade.

Moreover, academicians and intellectuals from Pakistan and India can play a pivotal role in developing a social consciousness among their own people regarding the urgency to mitigate the delicate situation in Kashmir by embarking upon a joint intellectual project to develop and publish a canon of literature based upon the theme of utopia.

Cultivating hope in the people for a better and prospering future may propel their dedication and ardour for action. It is a hope which move people to transcend beyond conventional thought boundaries. Utopian literature pertaining to Kashmir will inculcate a hope in the people regarding how the region could blossom and prosper with the resolution of conflict and it may serve to propel both societies and states to find a durable solution of the protracted conflict.

By embarking upon the policy of projecting socio economic paradigm of AJK, the narrative of Pakistan regarding Kashmir will get strengthen if it construct a sustainable development model in AJK which can serve to project the narrative of the people and the region onto the global stage through socio economic prism.

It is necessary for Pakistan to communicate to international community that there is more Kashmir than meets the eye. Kashmir represents a history of civilization, a melting pot of cultures and religions. From Buddhism to Hinduism to Islam, the region of Kashmir assimilated different religions to cultivate a majestic social heterogeneity in the valley and therefore underscoring socio economic paradigm pertaining to Kashmir merits our undivided attention to move toward a conflict resolution for sustainable development and peace in the region.