Occupied Kashmir shutdown caused losses of more than $1 billion, says trade body

November 19, 2019

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Journalists in Srinagar take part in a protest against continued internet blockade in the occupied region which crossed 100 days on November 12. — AFP/File
Journalists in Srinagar take part in a protest against continued internet blockade in the occupied region which crossed 100 days on November 12. — AFP/File

Economic losses in occupied Kashmir have run well over a billion dollars since India revoked its autonomy in August, the main trade body in the Himalayan region said, adding that it planned to sue the government for damages.

India turned occupied Jammu and Kashmir into a federally controlled territory, tightening control in a shock move it claimed would rein in 'militancy' in the region and promote its development.

But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said development was elusive, thanks to a protracted shutdown after people closed markets and businesses as a mark of protest.

It estimated economic losses ran into least $1.40 billion by September, but now exceeded that, said Nasir Khan, its senior vice president.

“We’ll ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the losses, because it is beyond us,” said Khan, adding that India’s telecoms blackout in the region meant the body could not reach business owners by telephone to prepare estimates.

Instead, it had to send staff to meet them and gather details.

India’s home ministry and local government officials did not respond to detailed requests for comment.

Kashmir on November 12 marked 100 days since India stripped the occupied valley of its autonomy and imposed a strict communications blackout.

Besides severing telecoms links ahead of its decision, India imposed curbs on travel, arrested local leadership and sent thousands of troops to the heavily militarised region, citing security concerns.

Few curbs have since been eased, but access to the internet remains largely blocked.

The clampdown has hit tourism as well as farming, horticulture and the arts and crafts that contribute the most to its export-oriented economy.

“I don’t see any stability for many months here,” said Vivek Wazir, who runs a hotel in Srinagar. “There’s too much uncertainty.”

Although a few years ago he planned to expand his business in Kashmir, Wazir said the hotel was now barely breaking even, and he was instead considering opening one in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

“I’d be surprised if any genuine investors came,” said Khan, adding that KCCI had received no inquiries from potential investors since August.