JAMMU: In less than 24 hours after fresh killings of seasonal workers in Kashmir triggering a renewed wave of panic and calling into question the government strategy to handle the emerging situation, the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar had a small yet high profile ceremony formalizing a rare partnership with a foreign government –the first such in case of Jammu and Kashmir.
In presence of Piyush Goyal, the visiting Minister for Commerce, the Jammu and Kashmir government signed an agreement with the Government of Dubai for developing industrial sector and business enterprises in partnership ventures. “Government of Dubai and the Government of Jammu Kashmir have entered into an agreement, which will help the Union Territory to scale new height in Industrialization sustainable growth. Today is an important day for the developmental journey of the UT of Jammu Kashmir”, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha tweeted after the event.
The papers were signed by Ranjan Prakash Thakur and Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani representing the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of Dubai, respectively. While Thakur is Principal Secretary in the Department of Industries and Commerce in Jammu and Kashmir, Al Shaibani, is a non-royal government official, serving as director general of The Ruler’s Court, Government of Dubai, a prime government body of the Emirate of Dubai.
The agreement, whose finer business details are yet to be known, could be a game-changer in economic development but its real strength rests in the political value. The timing and the MoU, per se, makes a bold statement to the elements inimical to peace in Jammu and Kashmir and the world at large, in the particular context of the August 5, 2019, constitutional changes.
Reading down of the special status on August 5, 2019, means different things to different people in different circumstances but for the current Government in New Delhi its has three broader objectives: removing elements of separatism from the political environment by full constitutional integration, making the world community agree on the constitutional and political status of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India and scaling up the life of people by rapid economic development. The three elements put together could make peace and lasting stability even as a lot requires of done on building internal confidence and restoring institutions of democracy.
The last two years have seen a number of initiatives on infrastructure and economic development, including Rs 28500 Cr package for attracting fresh investments. The Union Territory government says it has already received Rs 30,000 Crore investments proposals which are likely to go up to Rs 60,000 Crore. Several notable industry names have shown their keen interest in investing in Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha have taken personal keen interest in inviting attention of investors and at the same time creating an atmosphere for investments.
It is in this backdrop that terrorist outfits have been carrying out selective killings in Kashmir mainly targeting the members of the minority communities and the seasonal workers who come in lakhs from the other states. “Killing of seasonal workers is a potential message designed to scare away anyone who may be interested in economic development of Kashmir, may that be a major investor or a construction labour”, say the security experts.
While the Manoj Sinha administration has scaled up the security grid across the Kashmir Valley to pin down the militants, it has also ordered immediate measures for moving the workers to safer places. Along with these local procedures of immediate nature, the Government has loudly conveyed that it is not going to be cowed down under any circumstances. The investment agreement with the Dubai government is a clear message that economic development and building peace will go hand in hand. The timing of the investment agreement right in the middle of heightened security concerns is an evident sign of courage to defeat the elements hostile to peace.
An earlier MoU with Dubai
As Ranjan Thakur and Al Shaibani signed the agreement on Monday, the presence of Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the Chairman, and CEO of Dubai Ports, at the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar reminded the Jammu and Kashmir watchers of another agreement the erstwhile state Government had signed with Dubai. The signing had taken place between Sulayem and Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu on February 11, 2018, in Dubai in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was on a state visit to the United Arab Emirates. The 2018 MoU envisaged facilitating FDI to the tune of Rs 5000 crore through Joint Venture over the next five years. In the first phase, an investment of Rs 1500 crore was to be made by the Dubai Ports World in the multi-modal logistics parks which had to swell up to Rs 5000 crore over the next 5 years. A few days later Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and his team from Dubai Ports had visited Jammu for the site inspection. The Government had identified 140 acres of land for the purpose. A month later Drabu was sacked as Finance Minister by then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and three months later her Government fell down after the BJP walked out of the coalition. The partnership couldn’t move further due to a series of developments but the original idea didn’t vanish.
How is the 2021 MoU different? The agreement signed on Monday is with the Government of Dubai and not the Dubai Ports as was the case in 2018. “It is a partnership at the highest level that comes with the deepest commitment”, Ranjan Prakash Thakur, the Principal Secretary in the Industries and Commerce Department, says. He told The Dispatch, “the person who signed papers opposite to me, Al Shaibani, is an official of the Government of Dubai and his presence brings in personal commitment and interest of the ruler of Dubai”. If Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal’s hint is to be taken, ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum could be visiting Kashmir at some point soon.
Within a week after the historic J&K-Dubai MoU, Home Minister Amit Shah will flag off a direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah, a part of the United Arab Emirates together with Dubai. October 23, 2021 is not the first time when a commercial flight to an international destination will take off from Srinagar airport. Srinagar was designated as an international airport twelve years ago and the first flight took off on February 14, 2009. This was a short-lived affair. Acting against the might of India and the wishes of the people of Kashmir, Pakistan had the international flights from Srinagar abandoned. Islamabad played on two fronts: refused permission to fly over its airspace, this making the journey economically unfeasible and lobbying with Dubai against setting up a visa office in Srinagar. This left Kashmir deprived of direct international connectivity which almost every major state capital in India enjoys. A decade later, here is the Government of Dubai, an influential player in the comity of Muslim countries, making direct business deal with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.
This partnership with a major global business center is a message to the world that Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir. This MoU gives out a strong signal to the entire world that the way India is transforming into a global power, Jammu & Kashmir is having a significant role in that as well. LG Manoj Sinha mentioned about “deep relationship shared by Jammu Kashmir and Dubai based on the common values, mutual trust, respect and fair trade of popular products”. The Government of Dubai is willing to explore the opportunity of potential cooperation with the government of Jammu & Kashmir. The presence of Hon’ble Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem in today’s conference and our initiative to start the first International flight to Sharjah from 23rd October reflects our commitment to foster strong business cooperation, Sinha said.
The Dubai-J&K agreement is a significant move towards rapid development and Industrial growth in J&K. It is a milestone after which the investment will pour in from the entire globe and is a big developmental push. Different entities from Dubai have shown keen interest in investment. Development has to aspire on all fronts and we are on track. The recent industrial package of Rs 28,400 Crore is testimony towards ensured development of J&K, the Union Minister added. It is aimed at developing various economic activities including industrial parks, IT Towers, multi-purpose towers, logistics, medical college, super specialty hospital and many other projects. Jammu & Kashmir has already received a proposal worth Rs 30,000 crores in just a few months after the second wave of the pandemic and we hope to get the proposals of around Rs 60,000 crores in the coming times, the Lieutenant Governor had said at the event. This MoU is about Jammu Kashmir’s prospect and I am confident it will set the pace in the business sector of the future that is key to the prosperity of people. It renews the foundation of cooperation and reaffirms the government’s commitment to building Aatm-Nirbhar Jammu Kashmir, which will immensely contribute to Aatm-Nirbhar Bharat, observed the Lt Governor.
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