What is the economy of Kashmir

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Until 1947, the name Jammu & Kashmir referred to a principality located on both sides of the upper Indus in the northwestern Himalayan region, which is often colloquially referred to as Kashmir. The name is derived from both the Kashmir Valley, which is traversed by the Jhelum River, and the city of Jammu, which is already on the plain to the south of it. The region claimed by India, Pakistan and partly also by China has a total area of ​​222,236 square kilometers.

Map of Jammu & Kashmir. Photo: Eric Töpfer

Although India lays claim to the entire region, it in fact only administers part of the area, which is described below as the Union state of Jammu & Kashmir. The other parts are controlled by Pakistan and China.

Districts (2001): 1 Kupwara, 2 Baramula, 3 Srinagar, 4 Badgam, 5 Pulwama, 6 Anantnagar, 7 Punch, 8 Rajauri, 9 Jammu, 10 Udhampur, 11 Kathua, 12 Doda, 13 Kargil, 14 Leh (Ladakh). Photo: Christoph S. Sprung
The Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir is made up of geographically and culturally different regions. This area, with a share of about 45% of total Kashmir, extends over 92,000 square kilometers, which is roughly the size of Hungary. It is divided into 14 districts.

The Union state is separated from the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir in the west and north by the Line of Control (LoC). In the southwest, Jammu & Kashmir borders both the Pakistani and Indian parts of the Punjab. The southern neighboring state is Himachal Pradesh, and in the southeast and east lies the Autonomous Republic of Tibet, which has been controlled by the People's Republic of China since the 1950s.

It is almost 900 kilometers from the summer capital of Srinagar to New Delhi. The winter capital Jammu is about 300 kilometers from the Indian capital.

From southwest to northeast, the region can be divided into seven geographical zones. The lowlands in which Jammu lies and which are neither climatically nor in landscape terms from neighboring Punjab are followed by mountain slopes. These rise from approx. 600 m to up to 2,300 m and are characterized by their rainy, fertile valleys and rivers, which have cut deep into the landscape. Northeast of the up to 5,000 m high Pir Pinjal mountain range is the fertile high valley of Kashmir, with its average altitude of 1,800 m, which is used intensively for agriculture. The agriculturally unused areas are characterized by cedar forests, pines, rhododendrons, walnut trees and meadows.

The Kashmir Valley is followed by the central Himalayas with its mountain peaks of over 6,500 meters and remote, very dry valleys. The upper Indus valley, in which Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is also located, has alpine vegetation that corresponds to extreme cold and drought. The last of the seven geographical zones, the Karakoram high mountains with several of the highest peaks on earth, the majority of which are in the northern, Pakistani-controlled area. The glaciers of the Karakoram also bind the largest water reserves outside the South Pole.

According to the 2001 census, the population of the Union state is over 10 million. The Kashmir Valley with its six predominantly Muslim districts makes up only 15% of the area, but makes up 52% ​​of the population. In the six valley districts of Anantnag, Badgam, Baramula, Kupwara, Pulwama and Srinagar, Muslims have a share of over 95 percent.

The regions to the south of the Chenab River around Jammu, where almost 45% of the population live, are mostly portrayed as "influenced by Hinduism". However, only two thirds of the inhabitants of the region with the districts of Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur and Doda are Hindus.

In the sparsely populated high mountain regions of Zanskar and Ladakh - with their two districts Leh and Kargil - Buddhists and Muslims live in roughly equal proportions. Nevertheless, the strong orientation towards Tibet, which is certainly based on its cultural and economic exchange with the neighboring region to the east, is now a thing of the past.

The linguistic difference between the regions is still important at the moment. With Kashmiri, a language related to Urdu, an Indo-European dialect is the official language of the Union state. Like Urdu, it is also written in Persian characters. The related Hindi, which is written in the Devanagari script derived from Sanskrit, is mainly used by the Hindu population. Other languages ​​used locally are Dogri and Pahari. In large parts of Ladakh, Purig and Ladakhi are spoken, western Tibetan dialects that are also used in the high mountain region of Zanskar. Accordingly, Ladakhi has its own font.

Economy and Infrastructure

Jammu & Kashmir is a largely agricultural state with no major industrial operations. The Kashmir Valley is the most fertile region in the state. Nevertheless, incomes remain low due to the rather small average agricultural holdings. Agriculture is therefore mainly geared towards personal needs. Rice, wheat and maize are grown. The cultivation of fruit, especially apples, wine and nuts, is used commercially. Food processing is the only major industry. The limited animal husbandry with alpine pastures (especially goats and yaks) also includes silkworm rearing in the lower altitudes.

Handicrafts such as the knotting of carpets, the production of shawls from goat hair (pashmina) and silk fabric, silver work and wood carvings are known and sought after far beyond the borders of South Asia. Handicrafts from Buddhist Ladakh are also enjoying growing popularity.

The mineral resources iron, coal, bauxite, lead, nickel and manganese are mined in small amounts. Large parts of the mountain slopes and the Kashmir Valley consist of forests, which make up about one eighth of the total area of ​​the valley. They provide valuable woods.

Much of the energy in the villages and towns comes from hydropower plants.

The biggest problem for tourism and the overall economic development is the political situation. Until the beginning of the violent resistance at the end of the 1980s, tourism was a main economic pillar and an important source of foreign currency. Several Hindu shrines, such as Vaishnodevi in ​​the Trikuta Hills or Amarnath, still attract pilgrims from all over northern India. A true tourist center was always the Kashmir Valley with the picturesque capital Srinagar on the Dal Lake. In addition, in Gulmarg, southwest of Srinagar, the highest golf course in the world in summer and a ski paradise in winter offered domestic and foreign guests an alternative. The idyllic nature of the Kashmir Valley attracted hikers and even filmmakers from Bollywood.

Due to the everyday violence in the valley and the plain near Jammu, only the highlands of Ladakh are visited by tourists today - mostly in the snow-free summer months from June to October. The region has only been open to foreign tourists since 1974. Some sub-regions are still restricted military areas for security reasons. The most visited sights are the capital Leh with its monasteries Shey and Tikse, as well as the Hemis Gompa (the largest monastery in Ladakh) 45 km southeast. In Ladakh like Zanskar, only small plots along the rivers and streams are used for agriculture. They only allow an adequate supply of food to a limited extent. The large volume of traffic in the summer months is therefore mostly caused by food deliveries from other parts of the country.

The Kashmir Valley with Srinagar, which is geographically easier to reach from the west (i.e. today's Pakistan), was connected to India by a road over the Banihal Pass and a 2.5 km long tunnel opened in 1957. Overall, the transport connections in the region are very difficult, as many roads remain impassable for a large part of the year. In many parts of the Union state there are no road connections at all, as the mountain landscape seems insurmountable. For example, Jammu & Kashmir, with just under 13,000 kilometers of road, only has a third of the road usability of neighboring Himachal Pradesh. After all, the length of the national highways of Jammu & Kashmir is 648 km.

Both Srinagar, Jammu and Leh have civil airports. The only railway runs a full 84 km south of Jammu.

It is said that the region is of interest because of its oil and gas reserves and because of the numerous pipelines that have already been built. Kashmir is therefore not only of strategic importance for the neighboring countries. But the conflicts have undoubtedly turned the region into a poor house.


There is evidence that different peoples have settled in Kashmir for a long time. Many immigrated from the surrounding areas. Accordingly, cultures and religions mixed here.

This northernmost part of India was ruled by Indian kings early on. In the 3rd century BC He formed part of the great Ashoka empire. Buddhism was once the "state religion" in Kashmir as well.

In particular through the influence and work of Islamic mystics, the Sufis, the people of the Kashmir Valley came into contact with Islam from the 13th century. Already in the middle of the 14th century, the majority of the population professed Islam.

In the 1580s, the Kashmir Valley was conquered by the then Mughal ruler Akbar. This was not only the beginning of a cultural heyday, but also the beginning of domination by external powers, which Kashmiri nationalists still regret today.

The renewed conquest of Kashmir by the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Durrani in 1752 (see: Afghanistan History) caused considerable unrest and fighting. Durrani demanded higher taxes and knew how to stir up religious differences. As a result, bitter controversy arose for the first time in Kashmir, even between Shiites and Sunnis.

In 1819 the Kashmir Valley came under the control of the Sikh Maharajas Ranjit Singh. In the years that followed, he expanded his dominion far beyond the valley and conquered Baltistan, Gilgit and Ladakh. As early as the 1840s, the Sikhs were defeated by the troops of the British East India Company. The European traders then sold the area to the Hindu Maharaja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, for 7.5 million rupees.

This Dogra ruler established a bloody rule within the framework of the British Raj, in which the peasants, for example, were degraded to serfs. The installation of an unrestricted, expressive and inhuman power led to a strong rejection of the Dogra dynasty among large parts of the population.

History and Politics after 1947

When the end of colonial rule became apparent in 1947, the numerous vassal principalities were asked by the British-Indian viceroy to decide whether to join the future Pakistan or India. While 564 principalities made their decision in the two-month deadline set by Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, let the deadline pass and declared his independence.

The principality of Jammu & Kashmir, which bordered both India and Pakistan, and where a Hindu Maharaja ruled over a majority Muslim population, was of considerable importance to both sides. In line with its state idea, the Pakistan movement under Muhammad Ali Jinnah viewed the mountain region with its predominantly Muslim population as an integral part of the future state from the start. For India, strategic and certainly emotional motives were decisive: For example, the roots of the family of Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were in Kashmir.

In August and September 1947 an uprising against Maharaja Hari Singh began in the Poonch district. A cooperation between the insurgent, Muslim soldiers of the Maharaja's army and the Pakistan-supported Pathan warriors from the Pakistani-Afghan border areas threatened to turn the situation to the detriment of Hari Singh from October onwards. This caused the Hindu monarch to react.

Shortly before the rebels captured Srinagar, he turned to India for military assistance. India allegedly provided the requested aid after Kashmir declared its affiliation with the Indian Union. The exact timing is still controversial today. On October 27, 1947, the air transport of Indian troops to Srinagar began and with it the beginning of the first Indo-Pakistani war. It was not until January 1, 1949 that there was an armistice under the supervision of the United Nations and the de facto division of Kashmir into the Pakistani "Azad" Kashmir and the Northern Areas and the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The then Armistice Line (Line of Control - LoC) still forms the border between the parts of Kashmir controlled by the two countries.

On January 26, 1950, the Indian Constitution came into force. Article 370 describes Jammu & Kashmir as part of India and granted the region special rights. Since then, the affiliation of the Indian part of Kashmir has been the cause of political and military conflicts between India and Pakistan.

In the first election of 1951, the regional National Conference party [1] led by Sheikh Abdullah won all 75 seats in the constituent assembly of Jammu & Kashmir. It was not until 1952 that the hereditary monarchy was officially abolished with the Delhi Agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru. Even before that, Abdullah achieved a far-reaching land reform. He also received Prime Minister Nehru's approval for the referendum proposed by the UN in 1948. With him, the population should decide on the future whereabouts of Kashmir.

But only shortly afterwards New Delhi installed a "puppet government". The central government brought Bakshi Gulam Muhammad to head the National Conference in 1953 and had Sheikh Abdullah arrested. But the NC - like parties so often in South Asia - proved to be very people-oriented. From prison, Sheikh Abdullah, the "Lion of Kashmir" (Urdu: Sher-e-Kashmir), organized the resistance to a large extent: in 1955 he founded the cross-party plebiscite front as an oppositional counter-movement to the policies of the central government, which Jammu & Kashmir now direct Administration. Despite his imprisonment with short breaks (1958 and 64-65) until his final release in 1975, he set the tone of opposition Kashmiri politics.

In 1962 a war broke out between China and India. Several thousand people died as a result of the fighting in Ladakh.

The 3,000 guerrilla fighters smuggled into the Indian-controlled Kashmir Valley in 1965 as part of the Pakistani army operation "Gibraltar" failed to mobilize an uprising of the population against India with their explosive attacks and shootings. In the course of the fighting there were also serious clashes in the region near the city of Kargil. When regular Pakistani army units from "Azad" attacked Kashmir and later also further south of India in "Operation Malta" in August 1965, the second official war between neighboring countries began.

Only after the boycott of military supplies by Great Britain and the USA did the war operations come to a standstill, and a ceasefire was concluded in September. The peace conference from January 3 to 10, 1966 in Tashkent did not bring any solution to the problem in the region apart from the withdrawal of troops beyond the 1949 armistice line.

The renewed war between India and Pakistan in 1971, in which the former East Pakistani part of the country declared itself the independent state of Bangladesh, was followed by the Shimla Conference. At this conference, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi forced the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to renounce a referendum by the Kashmiris and establish the ceasefire line as an interstate border in addition to the peace treaty and self-determination of Bangladesh. Pakistan retrospectively revoked these last two points, but the Shimla Agreement of 1972 gave New Delhi a decisive advantage in the power struggle over Jammu & Kashmir.

After Congress had secured power in Jammu & Kashmir for years through rigged elections (1967 and 1972), free elections were held in Kashmir with the end of Indira Gandhi's emergency regime in 1977. The National Conference won a large majority among them. Sheikh Abdullah, who recognized the waiver of the referendum (Delhi Accord) on his release in 1975, became prime minister. After his death in 1982, he was succeeded by his son Farooq Abdullah as prime minister and party chairman. But Farooq did not long for the policy of cooperation with New Delhi and his father's acceptance of the status quo.In the also relatively free elections of 1983, his National Conference again won an absolute majority (even in Jammu 38% of the vote), but as early as 1984 the central government under Indira Gandhi began another attempt to instrumentalize the National Conference. The way New Delhi dealt with the interests of the Kashmiri people and how the Pakistani side tried to gain political influence played a large role in the political developments of the 1980s. In 1989 armed resistance began in the Kashmir Valley. This soon expanded into the region near Jammu.

The central government in New Delhi reacted with military harshness, and conditions similar to civil war developed, which made the actual Kashmir Valley in particular one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

There is no doubt that Kashmir plays a central role in Indo-Pakistani relations. Finally, two more wars have been fought over Kashmir since 1947. The conflict in and around Kashmir consists of a complex of different conflict situations, which the armed conflict between Pakistani and Indian army units near Kargil in 1999 revealed.

The positions of the many groupings within Kashmir range from demands for more autonomy (National Conference) to an independent Kashmir (as the majority of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, founded in 1993) calls for an affiliation with Pakistan (mostly from the Islamist, from the Pakistani) Represented part of Kashmir from operating underground organizations - the so-called jihadi groups).

While Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference succeeded again in becoming chief minister after an election boycott by the opposition parties in 1996 and leading the Union state without any noticeable progress, the mood in the most recent elections clearly turned against him or his son Omar, who is now the party leadership took over from his father.

Although the turnout, especially in the Kashmir Valley, was still lower than in historical ballots (e.g. 1977), the new coalition government in Srinagar has far more voters behind it than the National Conference before (see: election analysis from October 2002). The clearly external attempts to exert political influence on the Himalayan state have left the people of Jammu & Kashmir in dire suffering and bitter poverty. The trace of hope after the 2002 elections is only possible if the new government succeeds in integrating all groups. However, this still does not seem to be seriously wanted in either New Delhi or Islamabad.


[1] Increasing protests by the population since the late 1920s against the unjust rule of the Dogra Maharajas led to the establishment of a political organization in 1932: the national movement of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah was its first chairman. In 1938, however, the denominational Muslims split off under Mirwaiz Jusuf Shah. Sheikh Abdullah then founded the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference party, which can be classified more as a social-revolutionary-nationalist party. As a result of Abdullah's similar political ideas with Jawaharlal Nehru, the two came closer together and good relations.