INDIA: Companies in Kashmir look at new opportunities with UAE investment
New Delhi – As Dubai’s Emaar Group prepares to construct a mall and office complex in Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city, local authorities and business leaders expressed that the first foreign investment has sparked hopes for future chances in Kashmir.
On March 19, the UAE-India Business Council and the local government hosted an investment summit in Srinagar, where Emaar, the largest listed developer in Dubai, staged the groundbreaking ceremony for the $60 million Mall of Srinagar. Scores of Emirati businessmen attended.
“A historic investor meeting between India and the UAE took place in Srinagar, ushering in a new era of seemingly endless possibilities”, according to UIBC director general Mohsin Khan, it was also a rare occasion for open and honest discussion of the problems and investment potential in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The productive conversation, Khan said, “was held on various sectors, particularly agricultural and allied sectors, hospitality, education, tourism, and other industry sectors. It will also explore and ground investment opportunities which will further strengthen our long-term partnership with (the) UAE and the rest of the Gulf countries.
Since the Indian government removed Kashmir from its special autonomous status and divided it into two federally ruled territories in August 2019, promising security and reform, the region’s economy has suffered.
The nuclear-armed adversaries India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over sovereignty of the region, both fully claim the Muslim-majority Himalayan region, which is also partially under their authority. For many years, the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir has experienced bursts of separatist insurgency to challenge New Delhi’s authority.
Despite years of unsuccessful attempts by Indian officials to attract both domestic and foreign investors, the most recent breakthrough has given regional business leaders new cause for optimism.
“We welcome the conference on FDI investment in Kashmir… Numerous sectors have potential. According to Javid Tenga, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “I hope more people would come for investment in Kashmir”.
Also, he recognised the potential for quick job development in the area, where the unemployment rate is roughly 15%, double the national average for India.
The fields of tourism and horticulture provide significant opportunity, according to Tenga. Naturally, jobs will be generated, and our young males are actively seeking employment.
The Mall of Srinagar’s primary tenant, the Indian-Emirati global company LuLu Group, claimed it is already preparing more initiatives in Kashmir.
According to V. Nandakumar, director of marketing and communications for LuLu, “We have earmarked 250 crore rupees ($30 million) in the first phase of investment in Jammu and Kashmir for setting up a hypermarket inside the Mall of Srinagar as well as setting up a food processing centre there to export to the Gulf market”.
The company has been bringing in saffron, apples, and dry fruits from the area since last year. According to Nandakumar, “work on the food processing centre has already started and it should be finished in another year”.
In addition to us, many other corporations in India and abroad are expressing strong interest in the current investment climate.