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An agreement was signed between the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the government of Dubai at the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar on Monday to build infrastructure. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was hailed “as a major success for India” by a former Pakistan high commissioner, while the pact triggered outrage in Pakistan.

The MoU signed during a small yet high-profile ceremony indicates a rare formalised partnership with a foreign government at a time when terror operators are trying to demolish the perception that India has strengthened its hold over the region after the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped.

‘A SUCCESS FOR INDIA’

Former Pakistan ambassador to India Dr Abdul Basit, in his YouTube vlog called Kaleidoscope, said, “This [signing of MoU] is a major success for India in the context of both Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir as OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] members have always kept Pakistan’s sensibilities on Kashmir at the forefront.”

In a video posted on the social platform, Basit said, “India’s Kashmir strategy always had one important component that how to persuade some Muslim nations to open their missions or consulates in Kashmir and invest in the region. The critical basic idea is also to weaken the OIC from inside so that it is rendered incapable of taking a principled stand on Kashmir issue.”

Abdul Basit went on to say, “There is news that the Dubai government has signed an agreement with the Indian government under which Dubai will invest in infrastructure development in Jammu and Kashmir. Details are yet to arrive about the MoU and how it will bring investment. Whether there will be an investment in the Kashmir region or Jammu is not very clear.”

“In the past, they [OIC member nations] have never done something to make Pakistan feel that Muslim nations and the OIC are not standing behind us on the Kashmir issue. They may not have been very vocal, but have ensured not to work against our sentiment on Kashmir. That’s why, we saw many times that representatives of the OIC nations used to refrain from visiting Kashmir. Many times, even if they were invited, the OIC nations kept in mind the feelings of Pakistan.”

Basit’s vlog clearly indicates the significance of the MoU as the partnership with a major global financial centre such as Dubai is a message to the world that Pakistan has no locus standi on Kashmir.

What has made Pakistan more unhappy over the MoU is that the UAE has a powerful presence in the OIC, an alliance of currently 56 countries in which Islam plays a significant role, with Islam as the state religion, or countries where Muslims form the majority of the population.

Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir and attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue depended heavily on OIC support.

Targetting the Imran Khan government in Pakistan, Basit said now that the MoU has been signed, it’s clear that the matter is slipping out of Pakistan’s hands. “We are shaking our hands and legs in the dark. We seem to have no Kashmir policy left. It’s sad. The current government’s casual approach will haunt it,” he said.

“Past governments have also contributed to the weakening Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir,” he said.

At a time when India is battling Pakistan’s proxy attempts to destabilise the valley, Basit said, “I don’t say there can be no out of the box solution on Kashmir.”

“There should be efforts to find a solution. But, is it acceptable that everything is one-sided and the ground is ceded to India? Now, the condition is that Muslim nations are signing MoUs with India,” Basit said.

As India’s business and diplomatic ties with nations like the UAE grow, Basit said, “At this rate, it’s a possibility that soon the UAE and Iran may open their consulates in Kashmir. If this is the state of our diplomatic effort on Kashmir, this can happen.”

Pakistan has attempted to keep Srinagar isolated in various ways in the past. More than a decade ago, it had lobbied strongly against the UAE opening a visa office there. Then, for example, it derailed the move to turn Srinagar airport into an international destination.

The airport was designated as an international airport in March 2005. An expanded terminal to serve both domestic and international flights was inaugurated on February 14, 2009, by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

On the same day, Air India Express started weekly flights to Dubai. Soon, Pakistan denied permission to fly over its airspace. The detour meant longer flights and this made them economically unviable.

Speaking about a recent attempt to globally upgrade its claims against India with the release of a dossier, Basit claimed that it contained details of the alleged human rights violations by the Indian authorities in Kashmir on September 12.

He said, “We presented a dossier on J&K. But, it didn’t work further. Presenting the dossier isn’t enough. Pakistan is weak on follow up on a sustained basis. There is no reason that why we don’t achieve the results [when it comes to Kashmir]. Maybe, we failed to strengthen our civilian platforms to meet challenges for the 21st century.”

WHY PAKISTAN FEELS MoU IS A WIN FOR INDIA

The MoU is yet another attempt by the Narendra Modi-led central government to signal that the mainstreaming of Jammu and Kashmir, through development and investment initiatives, is on course after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

The MoU with Dubai covers real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, multipurpose towers, logistics, medical college, super speciality hospital and more.

Speaking about the significance of the MoU, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal said on Monday that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai, the world has started to recognise the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon.

Goyal said, “This MoU gives out a strong signal to the entire world that the way India is transforming into a global power, Jammu and Kashmir is having a significant role in that as well.”

The groundwork for the MoU was prepared during the ministers’ visit to Dubai between 1-3 October on the sidelines of the inauguration of the India pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

The MoU, apart from bringing much-needed investment to Jammu and Kashmir, also promises to help India gain greater support of the UAE which has a strong presence in the comity of Islamic nations and also counters Pakistan’s propaganda on Kashmir.

MoU NOT THE FIRST, BUT LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNT

The MoU papers were signed by Ranjan Prakash Thakur, the principal secretary in the Department of Industries and Commerce, Jammu and Kashmir, and Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani, director general of The Ruler’s Court, Government of Dubai.

Also present during the ceremony was Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the chairman, and CEO of DP World, a global leader in supply chain solutions specialising in cargo logistics, port terminal operations, maritime services.

On February 11, 2018, DP World’s Sulayem signed the state’s first-ever FDI agreement with the then finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Haseeb Drabu, in Dubai in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was on a state visit to the United Arab Emirates and the crown prince of the UAE, Mohamed bin Zayed at the Presidential palace.

The 2018 MoU involved FDI of Rs 5000 crore through a joint venture over the next five years. DP World was to invest Rs 1500 crore in phase-1 in multimodal logistics parks. The team led by Sulayem visited Jammu for site inspection a few days later.

But a month later, the then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister had sacked her finance minister Drabu and a few months later, the BJP-PDP alliance collapsed.

But, the MoU signed on Monday is different as it’s between the Jammu and Kashmir government and the government of Dubai, and with some private entity.

The MoU comes with greater guarantees as the commitment has been made at the highest level.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to flag off a direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah on October 23. This will mark the arrival of Srinagar on the international flight map

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