I spoke about the above subject as a panelist at a seminar organised by Kashmir Institute held in Srinagar in 2017 and reproduced now is the speech I made then and which is relevant today also .
It is important to bring it to the knowledge of the general public also .
Let me be clear that whatever I am speaking here are my own views and do not represent the view of any organization I have represented before previously whether trade or civil society groups .The things I am telling here I feel is the way ahead and could be a pathway and temporary arrangement till final settlement of Kashmir .
I think the people of Kashmir have been waiting for an initiative which has the potential to break the status quo which can be done if our people besides the resistance leadership and the so called main stream politicians come on one page at least to the first step for peaceful settlement of Kashmir by asking both Pakistan and India to declare their administered parts as FREE ECONOMIC ZONES which as President of Kashmir chamber of commerce & industry as well as President Joint Chamber of Commerce and industry I aggressively advocated which culminated in a resolution by the joint chamber where Jammu chamber also was a part of .
I have also read almost all what is written by all type of people on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but I hardly have seen writings on CPEC vis a vis Kashmir .
https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/kashmir-an-oasis-of-peace/. I have written on it in the context of an article while replying through the article the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir
I have seen the statements of Madam Mehbooba Mufti wherein she is trying to hoodwink people on the slogan of connectivity to the outside world through LOC which we need to label as Cease Fire Line as that is the actual status of this blood line. The slogan is as deceptive as their contention of starting the LOC trade which had nothing to do with J&K state governments as it was decided by both Pakistan and India because of dialogue which we know was started under UN resolutions of 1998 and agreed upon by President Mr Asif Zardari and Prime minister Mr Manmohan Singh in an agreement signed in New York wherein the modalities of Trade were to be decided by the local Chamber, and because of that the role of trade associations became important. In order for her to advocate a peaceful settlement it is better to inform her mentors or partners in the government that the only way she can get us connected is the following::
Take up the matter of declaring Indian Administered Kashmir, and the Pakistan Administered Kashmir as Free Economic Zone with the concerned governments. Passing this will be the first two steps if she is serious about it. Already there is a resolution by the Joint Chamber which represented all the trade bodies of both sides asking for same “
The other article was in Kashmir Pen which gave my full document of Kashmir The Ultimate oasis https://www.kashmirpen.com/kashmir-the-ultimate-oasis/
which I had worked with late SY.Joffe to produce and I want to quote one important thing which many may have overlooked and that is “”””In our way of thinking Kashmir could be a bridge between the occupying powers. In a sense it could be the moral and spiritual hub of a new union of South Asian countries.”
Having said this will CPEC , have an impact on the political issue it will be clear that once a free economic zone is agreed automatically we will become a part of CPEC as already the Pakistan administered Kashmir is a part of CPEC and particularly through Gilgit Baltistan the basic accessibility to whole of Pakistan is through that area which is legally a part of whole J&K what it was in 1947 .We have also to keep in mind that at least India is on record previously that they want the LOC to be irrelevant in context of trade and travel between the two parts .If they stick to that concept then we could overcome the first barrier as at least the LOC trade is still continuing with all its shortcomings and warts and has not been closed although there have been lot of ups and downs in relationships between Pakistan and India from 2008 when it started first .
It is important that India which is to be the main stumbling block in the above although to be fair to them Pakistan also is not forthcoming on this aspect although the joint chamber gave the same representation to both governments at official level and it may be surprising that both did not reply to our demand and on an issue of increase the no of items on trade both governments had the same answer of justifying a limited no of items although our contention to both was as both consider the other parts their own and as such there should be no restriction on items traded as it is between Jammu and Srinagar or Muzaffarabad and Mirpur .Both countries need to be sincere while dealing with Kashmir and make their position clear .
CPEC is the vehicle through which India through Kashmir can get the shortest route to Central Asia which is the target of the road and belt initiative of china to connectivity and according to a study an increase in the distance by 1% there is reduction of trade by 2.3% generally .
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as The Belt and Road (abbreviated B&R), One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR) or the Belt and Road Initiative of CHINA. The coverage area of the initiative is primarily Asia and Europe, encompassing around 60 countries. Oceania and East Africa are also included. Anticipated cumulative investment over an indefinite time scale is variously put at US$ 4trillion or US$ 8trillion. One Belt, One Road has been contrasted with the two US-centric trading arrangements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership .
As rightly asked by the Institute that whether India and Pakistan think that by connecting J&K with CPEC , J&K can become the buffer for economic relationship between the two disgruntled nuclear neighbors my contention is that it will not only become the buffer for economic relationship but as previously pointed out that if they go the whole hog J&K can become the moral and spiritual hub of a new union of south Asian countries if they also decide the sovereignty issue and there are different models to it after the free economic zone declaration and could be the next step in settling Kashmir once for all .There are different models after the free economic zone declaration and it could be the next step in settling Kashmir once for all https://kashmirultimateoasis.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/kashmir-the-ultimate-oasis/
The world has to play the role to avert a nuclear war between India & Pakistan and as recently pointed out recently while appearing before the senate committee by the Centcom General Joseph Votel of United states that it is a possibility with the present situation between the two countries Pakistan and India.
Now is the other important part which lot of people want to know is what is the scenario if we become a part of CPEC and what is the fall out for China,Pakistan as well as India economically besides Kashmir .
Pakistan and India external threats are from each other while India has a threat from China and by all three agreeing to what has been said already by me certainly the enmity between Pakistan and India will reduce and reach a level of bettering each other in sports ,culture and economic betterment which automatically will come by reduced expenditure on Defence by both countries and for India although for its relationship with China other world matters may effect but all will agree that defence expenditure of India which is presently in the vicinity of 51 billion dollars and of Pakistan is 7 billion dollars will get reduced and the saved money used for development and as we know that in the Inclusive development index (IDI) of 79 developing economies recently India was standing at 60 while as Pakistan is 52 while China is on 15 .
Now in respect to economy India will get benefit as told by defence expenditure reduction and also accessibility of trade with central Asia through road which will be cheaper and nearer and as pointed out previously any decrease of 1% in distance will increase the trade by 2.3%. By the same study conducted by Pradeep Agarwal and Seema Sangita for the Institute of Economic growth ,the inherent potential of trade for India with the central Asian countries can be multiplied by 10 times which presently is to the extent 654 million dollars( exports 401 while as imports 252 ) not to speak about the energy available from these countries which can be transferred through pipelines and electricity through transmission lines .
Now where does Kashmir get economic benefits and political benefits it is clear that by inclusion in CPEC we have a hope and a strong possibility of starting the process of final settlement while for economy besides being the transit point for the Indian trade to Central Asia besides Afghanistan and other countries . We have to keep in mind according to calculations, made by using standard gravity model the annual potential trade volumes between Pakistan administered Kashmir and Indian administered Kashmir are estimated to be around US$ 974 million but current trade volumes are only 8 per cent of potential trade flows .
By the process of settlement we can imagine the benefits which can come in many important sectors were we have an edge for example tourism which we can increase at least 10 times , horticulture ,high end textiles and handicrafts.
We would get further benefits by adopting the model of United Arab Emirates where they have created 30 free zones within UAE while as we could have a lesser no specific to the advantages we have in Jammu, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Rajouri or Srinagar etc. According to me based on my experience we have the potential of Academic clusters, biotech parks, flower centres, Health care city, International Financial centre, Gem & Jewelry park, textile parks , IT parks, Mineral parks as well as horticulture parks.These will be either based on raw material available or skilled workers available and can be expanded into other fields as per demand and supply.