Kashmir The Way Forward: Haseeb Drabu speech text

SRINAGAR: J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday sacked senior PDP leader and Finance Minister Dr Haseeb A Drabu for making comments that violate the fundamentals of the political ideology of PDP during an event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Delhi on March 9. Here is the transcript of Drabu’s speech that triggered a political storm in J&K and led to his ouster from J&K Government.

First, thank you very much to the PHD chamber of commerce for giving us the opportunity of the platform to speak about J&K across not just nationally but also globally, ambassadors of various countries here. It’s a rare occasion, we rarely get invited to such events, because we are known only for a few things and they are not pleasant ones.

PHD Chamber of Commerce has been active in the state and I must compliment the local chapter because you have both in Kashmir and in Jammu people I know very closely. You could not have got a better guy than Mushtaq Chaaya sahab, who is very pragmatic, no frills, no fancy, basic stuff, puts his money where his mouth is, that’s the kind of people you require. In Jammu you have someone like Vikrant, who is a dear friend. Extremely conscientious, perhaps one of the most honourable businessman in J&K. What more can one say about the PHD Chamber of Commerce. And of course, none of your leadership requires any introductions.

J&K Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu speaking to diplomats and investors at a PHD Chamber event on March 9, 2018

When I got the invitation for the conference, I was looking at the minute wise schedule and I was given five minutes to talk about the way ahead and vision. And I was wondering what I should say in five minutes. I said I should say what the PHD chamber has been saying for all its almost 100 years; what are we looking at, just three words is what I can say – progress, harmony and development.

I think that is perhaps the most eloquent way and very simple way of trying to say what is that we want. We don’t want anything beyond this. I think having said that we are looking at what everybody else is looking at, the real question is how? I do not want to do an aggressive sales pitch that was done by the president of the travel association.

I will not do an emotional pitch that was done by my kid brother Imran (Sports Minister Imran Ansari), who is a qualified community leader, he is a scholar in his own right. He tends to appear non-serious but he is a very very scholarly person. And of course, I will also not tell you about Altaf (Bukhari – Education Minister) , he is a part of you, he is not a part of us, really. Not that I am a part of politics. I am myself in some many ways an intruder into this. I don’t know if this is by design or it is by coincidence, the three ministers here are not professional politicians. You might find that interesting.

Altaf Bukhari is a businessman. Perhaps J&K’s largest business house. Moulvi sahab as I said, we call him Moulvi sahab because he heads a community, the Shia community, a religious leader and is a scholar of great eminence. Let this not deceive you into what you are going to get in J&K. This is not a sample.

Also, a little unfortunate I feel. Honestly, I wish, something we need to do about. This is a bit unfortunate. That the Chief Minister could not make it. She would connect in different ways then we would connect. She has a sense of the ground and perhaps she could also give you a sense of how she sees things happening.

Unfortunately, I spoke to her last night … she started travelling but it got a little late so. I certainly would be very keen to look at the research bureau report that has been presented here. I have not had a look at it yet, I’d surely look at it.

As a follow up to this conference here, I would suggest that I will organise a workshop on this in Jammu, as soon as possible. Not only for those who have written this report but also for all those who are interested in doing something in the state. So we will certainly take a look at all that is happening here.

As I said I don’t want to honestly do a sales pitch, asking you to invest, because you know where to go, when to go. To my mind, Kashmir is a pre-sold destination. The only word that has to go out is that it is peaceful. That’s all. The day the optics of that resides, we will have the problem that we will not have enough infrastructure to host you.

So we don’t need to sell Kashmir. It is pre-sold. But what is it that we can do? And I think I want to say something very different from what’s been said here because this is a rare gathering of people from a different spectrum, not just investors.

I can see that there are a lot of people from the India Inc. I can see some bureaucracy here. Of course, I can see some foreign policymakers here. So what are the three things that I would do in the way ahead. I’ll share my thoughts with you. Perhaps, have some questions, see if we can elaborate on this.

The first thing that we need to do is introspection. I think we, people living in J&K, and nationally, need to introspect of what is happening and why is it happening and how can we solve this. Somewhere down the line, I think not just now, but it’s been almost 30 years, that we have lost confidence in ourselves. I’m talking of the people of J&K. Somewhere, we have lost the confidence in creativity.

If you go back in time, innovators, creative people, the valley was full of these people, the state was full of them. Somewhere down the line, I don’t want to get into political histories, but there has been a shakeup, which gets manifested in different ways. For some, it reflects in trust deficit, for some, it reflects in confidence failure. We need to talk to ourselves before we talk to others. And this must happen, nationally as well.

Our aspirations, individually are not very different from aspirations any of you have. It’s only when it comes to a societal aspiration, that there are differences. In a disconnect between what we aspire for ourselves as individuals and what we aspire for our society and community.

Pick up a lad from Pulwama, where I come from and pick up a lad from Pathankot, there’s no difference. The aspirations are the same. Aspirations of a good life.

And it doesn’t take very much to ensure that every boy or girl in the state gets what every other boy in the country does. Why has it become so difficult for us, to manage this? And somehow I hold not just ourselves and the country but everyone around responsible for this. Because somewhere, I don’t know why and how, or perhaps I do but this is not the occasion to get into that, we have been isolated.

This brings me to my second point. Having introspected, what do we do? The second part of it is an interaction between people. This is a great opportunity for that. This is the kind of forum that we need more often. We don’t even realise how significant this is….

Not just in terms of you-come-and-invest. I don’t expect any of you to invest but what this does for us, it gives us a certain confidence that there are people who are willing to listen to us, who are concerned about us, who will interact with us and we will find a way forward.

It is not a G to G issue. The issue that pervades us in the valley and in the state is not about government to government, it’s about civil society. It’s about institutions like the PHD chamber of commerce. How much time are we spending on this issue. It’s also a global issue. Again, not globally in terms of a government, I think we have struggled for the last seventy years, to try and bring sustainable, durable peace because it’s been left to the governments. I think its time that civil society and people take the lead, and institutions like the PHD chamber of commerce take the lead and start the process so that it becomes – a C to C. Customer to the customer as in people to people. That is what is required.

I am reminded of what the chief minister said and that is a few months back, she doesn’t speak very much, she’s a doer. An interlocutor had been appointed by the government of India, and she was doing an Express Adda, where somebody asked her that how do you react to the gentleman being appointed as an interlocutor? She said, well its good, but for me, every tourist or everyone who visits J&K is a much more powerful interlocutor.

And that really is the message that we want to convey to you. Peace is not about investment. It is not about anything else. If you interact as we have done today, it sets off a series of events. In the process, relationships get built. A consequence of all that will happen is an investment in perhaps any sector. You need to help us in breaking away from the isolationist paradox that we are bottled in.

Honestly speaking, I am sharing this with you, we have made a story of ourselves and overtime this story has become fiction. We need to address that issue. We live in a world where somehow somewhere, a friend and a colleague of mine said this once that we started believing or we do believe that the world is a part of Kashmir. The world is not a part of Kashmir, Kashmir is a part of the world. Let’s understand that.

I think that’s a critical thing whereby the whole process of engagement must start. We can’t live in fiction for very long. And it’s in that, that we need support and help in coming out of this. Along with that, experiences, expertise then we will get into issues. We grow apples, surely we grow them we’ve been growing them hundreds of years. Can we get some knowledge of the best practices in? Yes, we can. Will that have an impact? yes, it will. But it’s not just the fact of a high-density technology coming in, along with that comes in a certain people’s contact, certain relationships.

As Altaf sahab was just saying, we signed a very big investment agreement with Dubai works, just now. We are hoping to sign something with Daewoo soon. If these are as they tend to be seen, as technical money inflows that are just about worth the money, that is an investment?, that is not going to change anything. Yes it will make people richer, but let’s go beyond that.

I started working in politics with a gentleman called Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whom we all regard as our mentor. And wherever I went with him, he would tell people, you know – “wo sab theek hai wo aap karenge jo karna hai par family ke saath Kashmir aaiye.” Seeing is believing, he would tell them. He would connect in that manner and you could see … once you get there… Some of the people who spoke here earlier, you’ll find the response that is heartwarming. Good people. I am not saying because I am from there. I’ve lived half my life outside of J&K. But honestly, we are having an exaggerated sense of self-importance. But go to genuine people, caught in a bit of time warp. Our avenues are very limited; a job is only a government job. Some people have to go outside and that exposure has to come in. That I need a job outside the government.

Today, the government is the employer and the last resort in J&K. We have 4.5 lakh government employees for a population of 1.2 (Crore). I was just yesterday, looking at database management, I have 3000 people doing database management, correcting statistics, for J&K. For a comparative figure, UP has only 1200 people. Now that is a mindset issue. A business does not have to be profitable only on the basis of subsidy. That’s a mindset that has to be, we have to showcase that. An enterprise is not profitable only because of tax concessions, no.

We may lead our happy lives, yes we do. our history may be taught to us, yes it is. We do have lives, unhappy as they might be. We run businesses, profitable. Mushtaq Chaaya, a great example of it. He has a business model which works in that situation. Altaf sahab again. Small small enterprises. It’s not that we don’t; we do.

J&K bank, I ran it for six years. At that point the most profitable institution in the country. So we have done our bit, but I think somewhere the world bypassed us or we let them bypass us and we got into a bit of a quandary. That quandary needs to be resolved in a way for us to be able to catch up with the rest of the world.

And once you do that, that you interact, the third and final part of what I think is important to understand is inclusion. We need to be included, not just on your investment agendas. Do that of course, and I am very confident that people will do it because that’s how investors function. They will go where their money can be made and there isn’t a better state in India than J&K.

But we need to be included in terms of the concerns. It can’t be just a political issue. What you’re seeing and this is the final point I want to leave with you, a thought with you. Don’t see J&K as a conflict state and as a political issue, its a society, which has social issues right now. We are trying to find our own space. And we are going through a process, which many other countries are going through. Its not like we are the only ones. Its not a political issue as far as I can see. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree talking about for the last 50, 70 years talking about the politics of it, the political situation, how it has never been improved. I think we also seriously need to correct in terms of how it’s a society in search for itself.

And here are people, hundreds of countries going through hundreds of small issues, trying to resolve them. Your knowledge sharing is far more important for us to come out of our pains. And somewhere let’s not get lost in the forest of symbols. Its very often said, I think (it) was said today also, that situation is not as bad and media is often to be blamed, I’ve been a part of media as well. I used to run a newspaper nationally, I was running Business Standard for many many years.. you’ve got lost in a forest of symbols. We need to break that. I wouldn’t in particular, blame the media because the media mirrors what the civil society wants. So all this game that is being played on television channels night after night is a reflection of what the society wants to hear. If you don’t want to hear it, they will not say it. I think that’s the key message. and I will appeal to your sensibilities, as individuals not as investors, try and look at us and you will find some very interesting opportunities where you will not just make money, you will have a lot of fun and you will enjoy yourself.

Thank you very much for inviting me.

(Courtesy: Indian Express)


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