April 2003 News

Pakistan and India advised to forego Kashmir

8 April 2003
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and India have been advised to seek accommodation on Kashmir in their economic interest and that of the divided state. This cooperation need not wait for a final solution of the problem.According to a study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the two countries have been asked to look seriously at the economic dimensions of a Kashmir settlement. 'This has been a neglected issue but is critical for the everyday lives of Kashmiris and a vital aspect of any sustainable peace,' says the recommendation. It is also planned that CSIS and the Kashmir Study Group, an initiative launched by the US-based Kashmiri millionaire Farooq Kathwari, will examine this issue in greater depth 'in the belief that it is the nucleus of a more open and stable South Asia.'The US, says the report, should use its aid programme to encourage the development of small-scale irrigation and run-of-the- river power generation on both sides of Kashmir, working within the limits of the Indus Waters Treaty. The CSIS study calls Kashmir an economically stagnant region. Until the 1980s, the Kashmir Valley, notes the report, the heart of Subcontinent, had four major economic sectors tourism, handicrafts, horticulture and woodworking. All four were devastated once the insurgency started. Compounding these problems - and predating them - is the fact that the Kashmir Valley is the one area that has suffered from the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The treaty bans their 'consumptive use' for irrigation or their damming for power generation on the Indian side of the LOC. Pakistan has turned down India's request that it be permitted to implement at least two projects in Kashmir. One is a hardy perennial on the list of India-Pakistan issues, the dispute over the Wular Barrage and Tulbul Navigation Channel. The report points out that the project was suspended in 1987 when Pakistan objected that the construction was in violation of the spirit of the Indus Waters Treaty. The second one is more recent, namely the proposed gateway structure at Baghliar. If the issue is dealt with, it will have great potential for generating energy projects on both sides of the border. CSIS states that on the Pakistan side of the LOC, the economy of Azad Kashmir is extremely depressed. It has never had any significant non-agricultural industry, aside from providing recruits for the Pakistani and British Indian armies. According to the report, the two parts of Kashmir have been almost totally cut off from one another for 55 years. There are few easily available data about how and where these networks used to operate, but it is safe to assume that they are not functioning in any meaningful sense now. Building economic bridges between the two parts of Kashmir could have many positive spin-offs.


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