Stating that peace was a prerequisite for Kashmir tourism to flourish, minister for finance Haseeb Drabu on Thursday acknowledged that Kashmir arts and crafts have been ignored despite having a large potential.
"Kashmir as tourism destination is pre-sold. It needs not to be sold. You will have tourists coming for years. But you need one thing and that is peace and nothing else. The day we are able to say with confidence that Kashmir is safe, we will have people flooding the Valley," said Drabu at the 'Ideas Summit-2017', organised by the Foundation for Resource Development and Education (FRDE), a non-governmental organisation.
The event was attended by entrepreneurs and established businesses in the hospitality sector.
"Peace is a key issue and each one of you (entrepreneurs) has a much bigger role to contribute towards building sustainable and enduring peace in J&K for sustained tourism," Drabu said.
A number of entrepreneurs from Kashmir participated in the function and some of them shared their experiences of deciding not to run for government jobs but start their own businesses.
"An entrepreneur has a dignified existence. Kashmiris are born entrepreneurs. If you look at arts and crafts here, the story goes when Napoleon gifted his wife a Kashmiri shawl," said Drabu.
However Drabu regretted that "we have in ways downgraded our own craft of shawls and the price we sell it at is ridiculous."
"We have not valued our arts, crafts, artisans and cultural heritage. We have destroyed it. While crafts are produced world over, our crafts are aesthetic and functional which is a rare combination. We have entrepreneurs in every house in J&K and that is the defining feature of our structure of economy," said Drabu.
Stating that Kashmir economy was small artisan and craft-based, the minister said: "We have faced problems in converting it into an industrial economy. We don't have even today a full-fledged department of crafts nor do we have even MBA in craft management despite such a history of crafts and arts."
The minister said that 27 percent of J&K's state domestic product comes from handicrafts and another 1/3 of it from horticulture. Together, the handicrafts and horticulture contribute 47 percent of state GDP.
"Yet we don't have a management course in craft management or MBA course in horticulture. We need to think as per needs and align what our structure of economy is with what we offer," said Drabu.
He acknowledged that despite facing immense challenges during the past 30 years, the Kashmir arts and crafts have survived and that too without the government support. "The government hasn't for the past 60 years made intervention on credit side, on design side or on marketing side. Nothing has been done. Yet, all these trades go to speak volumes about resilience of Kashmir entrepreneurship which has survived tough times and social trauma during '90s," said Drabu.