California Indian Americans host first-of-its-kind Kashmir Conclave


Eminent citizens, speakers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists converged in California recently to discuss Jammu and Kashmir, the first-of-its-kind Kashmir Conclave held May 13, at India Community Center in Milpitas, California.

The Kashmir Conclave team, hosted by a group of individuals mainly Kashmir natives played a crucial role in organizing the event, including accomplished entrepreneurs, lawyers and doctors. The team members include Jeevan Zutshi, Zara Hashim, Irfan Ali, and Tasawar Jalali.

The event fostered bilateral trade between the United States and Jammu & Kashmir by gathering industry experts in import-export laws, taxation, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and other key stakeholders. The objective was to facilitate and strengthen trade relations between the two regions.

Kashmiri-origin Jeevan Zutshi, author, filmmaker, and chairman and founder of a non-profit Indo-American Community Federation (IACF) said it’s been a long 33 years since Kashmir faced turmoil resulting in the exodus of almost 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits and peaceful Muslims, Sikhs, and others.

“I have spent most of these years fighting for the survival of this community, by raising awareness and making my voice heard even in Congress. I didn’t expect this day to come so soon when we would be talking about development instead of terrorism and mayhem,” Zutshi said in his speech. “As I have always said in these past decades, there is a strong need for promoting pluralism in the state so that all communities can live together as they did before.”

“I am delighted that steps have been taken for the implementation of more progressive local laws which shall empower women and provide a platform for their crucial voices.”

The G20 summit will convene in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory on May 22-24. The three-day summit will gather leaders representing 60% of the world’s population, marking the first major international event in a region that has long been plagued by terrorism and violence. The UT administration is expecting to host over 100 non-ministerial members representing G20 nations. This tourism stakeholder’s meeting will focus on giving a boost to J&K’s tourism industry.

Referring to “the beautiful region of Jammu and Kashmir” as a land of immense potential, Zutshi said: “The region has overcome numerous challenges thanks to the efforts of the state government and government of India. Jammu and Kashmir offers numerous investment opportunities in the agriculture, and horticulture sectors. Foreign direct investment worth Rs 500 crores has already happened with prominent companies making significant investments.”

About wooing investors and showcasing Jammu & Kashmir, Zutshi said: “The region has witnessed a surge in tourism. Jammu & Kashmir offers a world of incentives including land availability, skilled labor technical support market connectivity, air cargo facilities, and affordable power. The government has made substantial investments in highways, tunnels, and enhanced flight operations to define the region’s infrastructure and border strength.”

“Achieving sustainable economic growth in Jammu & Kashmir necessitates a comprehensive strategy that addresses education, healthcare,
entrepreneurship, renewable energy, and inclusive development. Through collaborative efforts, we can unleash the vast potential of this
region, creating ample business opportunities not only for its residents but also for US citizens, NRI’s, and OCI card holders,” Zutshi said.

Another Kashmiri, Tasawar Jalali, a serial entrepreneur who also serves as the chairman of Ibadatkhana, a movement born in Silicon Valley that promotes unity diversity, and democracy in the South Asian region asked for people to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. “If a state fails to provide for its citizens, it too is deemed unnecessary. Therefore, it is imperative that we celebrate and promote the spirit of entrepreneurship that has driven human civilization to constantly innovate and make our lives comfortable, safe, and predictable. Entrepreneurs have the ability to recognize needs and develop solutions to meet those needs, resulting in the creation of economic value and a positive impact on society.”

He added, “Over the past few decades, the region has been adversely affected by conflict, resulting in the collapse of its economy and causing severe damage to its previously flourishing tourism industry. Unfortunately, when people hear the name Kashmir, they often associate it with political unrest. However, our focus today is on the promotion of trade and commerce, entrepreneurship, and economic development in the region. We aspire to shift the perspective through which the region is viewed and steer the conversation away from solely political issues.”

The region, a treasure trove of natural beauty, attracted over two million visitors last year alone. With its stunning lakes, rivers, and mountains, and countless trekking destinations, Jammu & Kashmir offers a range of outdoor adventure sports, including powder skiing, fishing, and trekking. “The hospitality industry is thriving, and because of the booming tourism industry, visitors must pay three or four times more for lodging than what they pay in India’s capital New Delhi,” Jalali said.

“We must work together to promote local entrepreneurship, encourage innovation, and foster collaboration between different sectors of the economy. By doing so, we can create a vibrant and dynamic business environment that attracts investment, creates jobs, and enhances the overall quality of life for all residents of Jammu & Kashmir. In the coming year, the Kashmir Conclave plans to host a conference in the heart of Srinagar, the capital city, providing a platform for entrepreneurs from the USA and Kashmir to engage in face-to-face interactions and explore potential business opportunities,” Jalali said in his address.

Milpitas City’s first woman Mayor Carmen Montana said, “It is very important to promote trade. When you look back in the history of mankind people have always been trading goods and services and now, we are trading money. Competition for economic development is very important in our city and we have been attracting many businesses. We are working on an innovation district to attract and invite businesses to come to our beautiful city of Milpitas.”

Thanking the experts and attendees on behalf of the Milpitas City Council, the mayor recognized and congratulated the Kashmir Conclave
team for organizing and mobilizing the information and connections to build possible collaboration with businesses in the Jammu and  Kashmir region businesses for mutual economic benefits. “I commend the Kashmir Conclave team and we are here to support you, to work with each other because it’s all about economic development,” she added.

Neeraj Bhatia, an accomplished accounting professional based in Silicon Valley with 30-plus years of expertise in international and domestic tax planning, startups, and multinational entities, is the co-president of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco chapter. In his presentation at the event, Bhatia shared several incentives offered by the Indian government said that NRIs and OCIs can now buy and own property in Jammu and Kashmir, which was not allowed earlier. Adding on he said that the government also is offering Capital for ‘Infrastructure Subsidy’ up to ₹30 crore towards the cost incurred for development of common industrial infrastructure and utilities.

Bhatia also informed that interest on loans up to to ₹500 crore for capital investment shall be eligible for subvention. All eligible units can avail capital interest subvention at the annual rate of interest of 6% for a maximum of seven consecutive years. (Minimum interest would be 2%).

Anu Nakka, who is on the board of the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce and the Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD), said, “Kashmir theme is amazing. I’ve learned a lot this evening and I would like to explore more of what the potential collaboration could be from our school district, which is amazing. I have pursued my doctorate in finance and corporate secretary and I work for the county of Santa Clara. So, it’s the education that takes you anywhere and everywhere and beyond, the sky is the limit.”

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