Peace and development in Kashmir are closely linked

In the 17th century, Emperor Jahangir fondly said, “Gar firdaus bar-rue zaminast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast!” Meaning, ‘If there is paradise on earth; it is here, it is here, it is here.’ The famous emperor was talking about the beautiful land of Kashmir. If you’ve been there you cannot help but agree. If you haven’t been there yet, go there you’re sure to build memories for life. Often when we talk about Kashmir, our conversation revolves around the beauty of the state and the terrorism crippling it. Due to decades of terrorism, the state had lost its charm as a business destination for domestic and foreign business players, which has made development stagnant. However, change towards peace and development is gradually seeping in the valley.

Peace and development in Kashmir are directly and closely linked. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way”. Economic development, Human development and peace are mutually reinforcing. Everybody now recognises that the important element of strategic peace building is a strong and equitable socio-economic foundation. Conflict has an adverse impact on the livelihood, education and health, i.e. it adversely affects human development. We can gain sustainable development and economic growth in Kashmir when we focus on all the parameters rather than only economic development. Violent conflict cause growth to decline, damage to infrastructure, destruction of physical capital, reduces investments. Houses, schools and health facilities are destroyed depriving the people of basic necessities for growth and development. It is therefore fair to conclude that peace paves way for development and development brings peace and prosperity.

This brings up a very important question, “Should we wait for the conflicts to fully subside to bring in development?” Developmental activities can continue in a conflict zone thus letting the conflict situation gradually subside, as among many other factors, poverty and underdevelopment are cause of violence. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace and stability which is not possible without meeting the basic needs of the people. The current opportunity to bring peace by means of development in the region needs to be utilised instead of waiting for the conflict to be resolved fully. In the era of globalisation when political issues are guided by economic imperatives, it is necessary to bring the same realisation into Kashmir.

Economic development would likely steer the ongoing peace process further and help realise a peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue. It is a three-way process involving addressing the underdevelopment, involving people in the development process and thus bringing empowerment and help address the issues related to alienation.

Youth in Kashmir also aspire to contribute positively to their society; yet the continued political insecurity and the challenge of finding fulfilling educational and meaningful employment opportunities hinders their ability to do so. Civically engaged and active youth can be positive agents of change. Institutions are responsible for preparing future leaders and workforce in Kashmir by providing young people with skills required for future employment.

Civil society can play a key role in providing spaces for young people to come together and discuss issues of common interests – cultural, social and political. Many young Kashmiris have turned to creative expression to tell their stories and voice their opinions. This includes writers, poets, filmmakers, musicians, cartoonists and others. They are now narrating the Kashmir story through these mediums documenting the history, the political conflict and current situation of Kashmir. The use of online social forums and street graffiti has provided an avenue for them to voice their aspirations and share information about their situation.

Young people are naturally, socially and politically aware, and provide an invaluable potential to build a critical mass of young leaders. Positive spaces can be transformed by creating space in academia and communities, better educational institutions and faculties, intra-regional spaces, civil societies, support for entrepreneurship and much more.

The youth holds the key to J&K’s future of dignity and progress and the said education and exposure should be made available in every town and village as education alone can work as a catalyst for a nation’s prosperity. The youth of the State has the talent, integrity and passion to take the State to new heights of prosperity with honour and dignity. It is in their endeavours that we can find a better future for the State and its people. Despite the very circumstances that have existed in the State, her youth have excelled in all fields because of their talent and sheer dedication.

Educational institutions have to hone the talent in youth and guide them towards the path of honesty, sincerity and selfless service to their people. There are scientists, doctors, engineers and researchers who have come from our far-flung villages and towns and have made a name for themselves and the State all around the world. These are the role models that the youth should emulate while at the same time realizing the importance of serving the State and its people – they should help resolve longstanding issues and problems in the State and become engines of Change, thus bringing peace, development and prosperity to the region.

Courtesy: Ali Fayyaz

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