The shift in Jammu & Kashmir’s policy has resulted in the UAE signing billion-dollar projects in Kashmir, including malls, food processing units, industrial parks, medical colleges, hospitals, and logistic centres…. Writes Soniya Kirpalani
Jammu & Kashmir is rising like a phoenix. The Union Territory is actively ramping up its security, economic policies, and infrastructure to win global partnerships that will ensure its growth trajectory. It is natural that the UAE and India who have been strategic partners, sharing strong bilateral relationships based on geopolitical and economic interests, are the first port of call for J&K to seek strategic investment from the UAE.
In 2020, Lulu Group, an Abu Dhabi-based conglomerate, became the first to announce an investment of up to $600 million, investing in setting up food processing and logistics centres in Jammu and Kashmir focused on mutual growth.
The Indian Embassy hosted ‘Jammu & Kashmir Week’ at the India Pavilion at EXPO2020 with a focus on facilitating buyer-seller meet, and showcasing the region’s best offerings. It also hosted a strategic Investor Interaction at Jumeirah Emirates Towers where leading dignitaries, ministry officials from Jammu & Kashmir interacted with local investors.
Furthermore, since the Indian government revoked its special status of Article 370 and brought the Union Territory under the central administration, it has further encouraged international investors, especially from Dubai. Therefore, UAE-based investments have gathered pace, with a significant announcement by Dubai’s Emaar group, who inked an agreement to build a shopping mall in Srinagar. HE Mohamed Alabbar, the founder of Emaar and Noon, has also expressed further interest in investing in real estate and hospitality.
HE Dr Ahmed Abdul Rahman Albanna, UAE Ambassador to India, suggested many more UAE investors would be actively looking for such investment opportunities in J&K.
“India is the second-largest trade partner for the UAE, in turn, UAE is the third-largest for India with foreign trade figures reaching about $60 billion in 2019-2020. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between both countries which has been signed between both nations will be crucial in deepening the ties between India and UAE, increasing our bilateral trade from $60 billion to $100billion in the coming 5 to 8 years.”
HE Al Banna has been one of the biggest advocates, supporting the Indian Embassy to secure investment from the UAE.
“Ever since the Government of India announced the historic administrative changes in 2019, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has become the latest success story among Indian states as a model of economic and social development. India and UAE are trading partners. And soon, CEPA will be signed, which certainly has the potential to catapult our economic engagement to a very different trajectory altogether,” expressed HE Sunjay Sudhir, Ambassador of India to the UAE.
Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory Manoj Sinha said, “India’s participation at the Expo is a testament to the fact that the country values UAE as an esteemed partner. Various states and sectors in India have understood the importance of the Expo, and the global exposure provided by the event. Jammu & Kashmir is privileged to participate at this global event and strengthen its footprint in the UAE.”
Speaking to leading investors, Sinha said, “Jammu & Kashmir is working relentlessly to provide an investment-friendly environment to the global investors. From the business point of view, J&K has the capability to provide opportunities to the industries to compete, correct and collaborate with readily available abundant resources. Archaic laws have been removed and more than 890 Central laws, which are the key drivers of socio-economic growth, have been made applicable in the last two years.”
Ranjan Prakash Thakur, IRTS, Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce spoke about how the UT is enabling an environment for investment in J&K to foster sustainable growth across focus sectors like agri, real estate, logistics, technology, tourism, handicraft, and textile. Laying high-quality infrastructure, subsidizing electricity, offering on-window clearances and paperless processes, J&K is encouraging and creating conditions that will enable the promotion of human resource skills, creation of new employment opportunities both across industrial sectors, and SMEs.
Sarmad Hafeez, secretary of tourism, spoke eloquently and passionately about Kashmir’s rare nature, wildlife, historical, and heritage tourism opportunities. Furthermore, keeping in pace with the demands of the ‘new normal’ and his safety standards and need for unique travel experiences, he highlighted J&K’s golf and adventure tourism experiences.
Citing that J&K is one of the few destinations which offers four distinctive seasonal experiences for travel, he spoke about the warmth of the people and Kashmir’s legendary hospitality.
Throughout the week, the Indian Consulate has actively bridged G2B, B2G and G2G meetings, also winning commitments from Al Maya Group, DP World, Noon, MATU Investments, MAGNA Waves.
Dr Aman Puri, Consul-General of India in Dubai, said he is delighted that Emaar is investing in a shopping mall in Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Puri added: “This indicates that the bilateral relationship between two nations is now getting a further boost with investments expected in other sectors too.
“Just a few years ago, the archaic and imposing policies had stunted any growth in the valley and this kind of international interest was unthinkable. Today, with the coming together of public-private partnership and the support of strategic investors like UAE, J & K are seeing an unparalleled recovery in keeping the intrinsic values of the Valley.”