On Solid Ground

Kashmir promotes promising investment opportunities

BY Arfa Shahid

Dubai’s real estate developer, Emaar, is eyeing possible investment opportunities in India’s Kashmir region, a top Kashmir official told Newsweek Middle East.

In an exclusive interview with the Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (Jnk), Haseeb Drabu, the minister said he held “talks” with Emaar’s chief over the possibility of bringing in Emaar as an investor in JnK’s real estate and hospitality sectors, with a focus on tourism.

“The process of engagement with Emaar has started,” the former chairman of JnK Bank said, following a meeting with Emaar’s Chairman Mohammad Al Abbar. “He [Abbar] will visit Kashmir and explore the possibility of [investing in the] hospitality sector,” said Drabu.

News of further Emirati investments in India surfaced following a state visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Arab Emirates in August, which laced the floor for such investments, according to the minister.

Drabu said that “Modi’s visit has started a course of reengagement [between both countries]. I am talking about the specifics of sector and space with the investors. So you can say the process is getting more funneled.”

When contacted by Newsweek Middle East, Emaar declined to comment on the news. “At this moment, Emaar has no comment,” Al Abbar’s office said in a telephone call.

Drabu said the purpose of his visit to Dubai was “to set the stage” for international investors to look at the possibility of investing in JnK region.

Should the minister succeed in attracting investors, it would constitute a first for JnK region, which is yet to attract foreign direct investments from the Arab Gulf region.

When asked to comment on whether the political situation in India’s part of Kashmir is conducive for investments, the minister said, “It’s time to invest when there’s blood on the streets.”
Drabu added that while there may be some components of civil strife, the situation in Kashmir has improved compared to what it was six years ago. “Even at heights of violence, no tourism was ever affected,” he said.

Furthermore, Drabu believes that investors should worry about stability in government structures when it comes to eyeing opportunities in foreign land. Citing the two-thirds majority in his government, Drabu explained that Kashmir’s government is “very stable,” which makes it a key component that “paves the way for foreign investments.”

When asked about his government’s alliance with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is heavily criticized for its intolerance towards minorities, and whether that should be a cause of concern for foreign investors, Drabu said that “every political party has some fringe elements and so does BJP… but those should be best seen as aberrations, not norm.”

Investors should regard “Kashmir as normal, rather than looking at it from a “fairly negative” media perspective.

“What really [increases the flow of] investment is a stable government and its policies,” he added.

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