Srinagar: The geographical location of Jammu and Kashmir is such that even though surrounded vy the great mountain barriers of Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Kuen Lun and Western Himalayas, the state had established overland trade links with Central Asia since ancient times.
The state’s geographical location being a reason that the state’s Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu, while addressing the concluding session of the India-UAE Partnership Summit (IUPS) in Dubai called for making the state as a transit and trade corridor for arching out to Central Asia.
Given the geographical location of the state, it can no doubt prove to become a nucleus towards forging a new economic alliance in the region between the South and the Central Asia.
India and Central Asia have shared a geo-cultural affinity and a long tradition of historical contacts that dates back to antiquity. There is convergence of views on varied issues and interests between the Central Asian Republics and Kashmir.
J&K can therefore become a surface transport passage for reviving traditional economic linkages in the region. The state endowed with natural resources can prove to be a huge potential for investment in tourism, energy, education, healthcare, Information Technology and agriculture sectors including setting up of a Dry Port, Cold Chain, Education Zone for foreign universities and Special Economic Zones for handicrafts and Sports Goods.
The past experiences of trade carried out by the caravan traders acted as the medium of exchange of art, culture, ideas and technology thereby assisting in the process of urbanisation.
So much so, many areas along the trade routes became famous for their specific products. For instance, Khotan was famed for jade, carpets and silken fabrics and hemp cords. Bukhara was noted for its carpets-Badakhshan for lapis-lazuli and rubies and Kashmir for its saffron, fine shawls and calligraphed books.
In short, these areas developed into important trading centres in this east-west trade which was carried through the silk route. Due to its geographical proximity to Central Asia and linkage with the silk routes system, Kashmir acted as an important transit emporium in the bilateral Indo-Central Asian trade.
Though Kashmir’s trade connection with Central Asia was indirect as the two sides had no common border. Whatever commerce was conducted was through the circuitous and difficult mountainous trade routes which passed through Ladakh and Chinese Turkestan on the one side and Chitral and Pamirs on the other.
And now that the state’s minister has sought a revival of the trade connection, this needs to be taken seriously. The minister and the government he represents needs to formulate a plan in this direction and mere statements and assertions will not guide us to the real purpose.