“This place is very beautiful, it is a piece of paradise”.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this statement is from one of the thousands of tourists who have visited Jammu & Kashmir over the past few months. After all, J&K is invariably referred to as “heaven in earth”.
Instead, this is what the CEO of Emirates International Investment Group, Abdulla Mohammad Yousuf Abdulla Alshaibani, told reporters at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) during a visit to Srinagar in March.
“People are very kind and we felt so safe between you, like our family. This place is very beautiful, it is a piece of paradise. There is a big opportunity to invest from our whole team,” Alshaibani was quoted as saying.
He was part of a business delegation representing over 30 companies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia which was in Srinagar to explore business and investment options in Jammu & Kashmir.
Businesses and corporate houses, not just from the Gulf region but also from within the country, have been warming up to the idea of investing in Jammu & Kashmir for some time now.
Militancy is well under control, infrastructure development that is essential for industrial development is on in full swing and there is an air of optimism all around.
Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has expressed hope that the Union Territory would receive investments worth over Rs 70,000 crores in the next six months.
Sinha would know what he is talking about. In January this year, he led a delegation to Expo 2020 Dubai – one of the largest trade and technology exhibitions in the world – and made a strong pitch for business and investment in Jammu & Kashmir.
The India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai hosted the J&K week to coincide with KG Sinha’s visit.
The J&K government had signed at least six agreements in sectors like real estate, infrastructure, tourism, healthcare, and food processing. UAE-based companies like Al Maya group, MATU investments LLC, Century Financial, Noon e-commerce and others signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the J&K administration.
Apart from this, a letter of intent (LoI) was also signed with Magna Waves Private Limited, Emaar group and Lulu international, information released by the Jammu & Kashmir administration had said then.
In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on April 6, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said the Government of Jammu & Kashmir had reported receiving proposals for investments worth approximately Rs51,000 crores so far.
This change in perception about Jammu & Kashmir being a serious investment destination is not something that has happened overnight. Things have been taking shape, one small but sure step at a time, since the abrogation of Article 370 and declaration of Jammu & Kashmir as a Union Territory in 2019.
The Government of India notified the New Central Sector Scheme for Industrial Development of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on February 19, 2021.
“The scheme proposed an investment of Rs 28,400 crore… We took time to roll out the scheme because of the second wave of COVID-19. You will be surprised to know that today we have received proposals for investments worth Rs 52,000 crore. Of this, we have approved business proposals worth Rs 38,080 crore,” LG Sinha said at a recent business event.
In order to boost industrial development in UT, the Government of J&K has also notified the J&K Industrial Policy, J&K Private Industrial Estate Development Policy and J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy.
Taken together, these initiatives have provided a robust framework for industrial development in Jammu & Kashmir.
According to official data, in 70 years, Jammu & Kashmir had been able to generate only 3,500 MW of power. Now, the UT administration has set an ambitious target or doubling the power generation capacity in three years. It is also looking at generating three times the current level of power in seven years.
Road, rail, and air connectivity
Night flight operations have been started from Jammu & Kashmir and the Srinagar and Jannu airports have reported the highest ever air traffic.
Highway and expressway projects have been put on the fast track while existing road networks are being expanded and upgraded.
A light metro rail transit system is planned for the cities of Srinagar and Jammu.
The Kashmir region will be connected to the rest of the country by train by December 2023.
The first Jammu & Kashmir Real Estate Summit, organised in December 2021, saw 39 MoUs worth Rs 18,300 crore being signed with real estate investors for the development of housing and commercial projects in the Union Territory.