SRINAGAR - Indian Kashmir is to get its first foreign investment, with Dubai’s Emaar Group due to build a $60 million shopping and office complex, as the government looks to stabilise a region where Muslim separatists have for years battled the government.
The 5 billion rupee ($60.50 million) development will include a shopping mall and multi-purpose commercial tower in Srinagar, the capital of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region, Emaar announced at an investment summit in the city.
The announcement on Sunday of what the region's government said was its first foreign investment comes after the central government said last week that Jammu and Kashmir had received record investment of 15 billion rupees ($181 million) in the first 10 months of the 2022-23 (April-March) fiscal year.
Governments have long tried to woo investors, both domestic and foreign, but with little success due to the three-decade insurgency in a region claimed by both India and Pakistan.
India says Muslim Pakistan has long supported the insurgency. Pakistan denies that.
Emaar Properties CEO Amit Jain told reporters that the investment would have a ripple effect.
“This is the start, we should inspire people, people should aspire to follow us. This is a one million square feet mall with 500 shops and will generate around 7,000 to 8,000 jobs,” Jain said after the ground-breaking ceremony for the "Mall of Srinagar".
Emaar, builder of the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, is Dubai’s largest listed developer. The Dubai government owns a minority stake in the developer through its sovereign wealth fund.
Top administrator Manoj Sinha said the project had infused confidence in foreign investors and would boost the region's economy.
In August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally administered territories as part of an effort to tighten its grip over the region at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility with Pakistan and integrate it more closely with the rest of the country.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full but rule in part, and have fought two of their three wars over it.
The reorganisation was enacted with a communications blackout and a security clamp-down, with the government flooding the heavily militarised region with troops.
Many of those restrictions have been eased and the Kashmir Valley, known for is snow-topped mountains and scenic lakes, attracted more than 16 million tourists in 2022, the most since British colonial rule ended in 1947.
($1 = 82.6470 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in SRINAGAR; Writing by Y.P. Rajesh; Editing by Robert Birsel)