Long lasting conflict in Kashmir is a big hurdle for economic growth: Ambassador Sabit Subasic

Youth in Kashmir are capable to select the best leaders: Ambassador Sabit Subasic 

Bosnia and Herzegovinian Ambassador Dr. Sabit Subasic believes the intractable conflict in Kashmir valley has drastically affected the state’s economic growth and that the tourism sector has been a victim of negative publicity. Dr. Subasic spoke about his impressions from his recent visit to the state.

What was purpose of your visit to Kashmir?
Jammu Kashmir is a state in India that I had never visited. Being ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), it is my duty to pay visit to different regions in the country. Also, I wanted to see Kashmir. For the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kashmir means unique beauty, incomparable nature, rivers, lakes and mountains. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina think that Kashmir is similar to their own country.

How different is Kashmir from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), politically?
It is difficult to compare Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kashmir politically. We are in different geographical regions, with different history and different political environment. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an independent state. We both have had turbulent periods in our history and that is probably one of the similarities.

Talk about similarities between the conflict-ridden people of BH and Kashmir?
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we had a bloody war 25 years ago that lasted around for four years. We also had a genocide of Muslims. It was mostly due to the aggression from neighboring countries. Despite all this, we managed to defend ourselves. After passing through a hopeless and dramatic period of two decades, we are now living in peace and prosperity. Especially, economically we have made a good progress. In Kashmir, however, you have long lasting but lower intensity conflict which is a big hurdle for economic growth and prosperity.

Where do you see this conflict-ridden state 20 years down the line?
The State of Jammu Kashmir has all the potentials. I believe, Jammu Kashmir will be one of the most advanced states in India in near future.Also the people of Jammu Kashmir have power and potential to change the future of Kashmir, especially the young generation. They are guarantee for bright future.

Is there any scope of a political solution to this conflict?
I strongly believe that there is political solution for the most conflicts around the globe. I remember, when we had war going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I did not saw any scope for conflict resolution. However, with passage of time the path to peace was found. I firmly believe that the situation in Kashmir will get normalized with some serious efforts.
But for resolution to succeed, the local population is important. They should work hard at different levels so that a resolution is found. I was also impressed by the energy of young people. I saw their enthusiasm and creativeness. Also, I met intellectuals, activities in different NGOs who in their respective areas are trying to improve the overall situation. I not only met people who deal with the crises management, but also environmentalists, sport activists, tourism promoters, university professors. They too are working hard to make the region easier and safer for living. I believe that non-governmental sector is an important tool that can be used efficiently to make general atmosphere little warmer.

You also met the head priest of Kashmir – Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq. Your views about him? Is he the future of Kashmir?
It was interesting meeting with Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq who is obviously an important religious leader and political actor in the region. He presented his views on the overall situation of Jammu Kashmir.
I am not in position to give answer on future leaders of the region, but what I am sure is that young people of Kashmir immensely impressed me.They deserve to have capable leaders with vision and capacity to lead them to peace, prosperous life with economic growth. I am sure youth in Kashmir are capable to select the best leaders.

Talking at the Institute of Hotel Management in Srinagar you said that “It was my childhood dream to visit Kashmir”.Can you elaborate?
As I said earlier for many people in my country, Kashmir is something exceptional. Kashmir is beauty.  Also people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, know what suffering is, and because of that there is an additional feeling. I was also fascinated by Kashmir and wanted to visit the place since my childhood.

What your view about the Kashmir’s tourism industry?
The tourism industry has a huge potential. I do hope that your tourism industry will be the most important industry of the region in near future. You have all the facilities like attractions, hospitality, and solid infrastructure. Probably, all the stakeholders associated with the tourism need to work hard to promote Kashmir as tourist destinations. They should work to create better image, to minimize negative attitude effects and suspicions. There is need of developing some broad concept and strategy to attract more tourists. But the primary focus should be to attract the Indian tourist first.

Do you think Kashmir tourism has affected due to negative media publicity?
Yes, it has. This is also a feeling among many people I discussed with.  But, it is encouraging that there are many capable people working here (not just in tourism) who are eager to intensify the promotion of Kashmir as tourism destination.

What steps should be taken to stop the negative publicity?
There is a need of grand strategy, and broad approach to promote Kashmir as tourism destination. It will also include projects to eliminate or minimize the effects of negative publicity.  We have also discussed some projects with few tourism activists and professionals from Jammu Kashmir.

Will you work as Kashmir’s “tourism ambassador” so that foreigners come to visit the state?
I am impressed by what I saw in Srinagar. I was impressed by capabilities and enthusiasm of people that I met. I do not have any dilemma that tourism in Kashmir will grow rapidly. I will be at disposal for any help in that regard.

You also visited some of the educational institutions in Srinagar. Education remains one of the main concerns in the State. Is there any scope of student-to-student contact between the two places (BH and Kashmir)?
I visited some good educational institutions.I had discussion with some exceptional university professors and scientists at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K). I was also impressed by the knowledge of people at Department of Economics, University of Kashmir. However, I do agree that some more international student exchanges could be beneficial for both the regions. From my side, I will do my best to connect the Kashmiri students with Bosnia and Herzegovinian.

Similarly, is there any scope for buyer-seller meet between the people of Kashmir and BH?
There are many. We have also discussed and agreed to some business delegation to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. We need to work hard to prepare the visit well. We also planning of opening Kashmir trade center in Bosnia and Herzegovina with purpose to sell Kashmiri product not just in Bosnia but also in the entire European region. It should be like hub for Kashmiri products.

You officially became the Bosnian Ambassador to India in 3rd March 2014. Why it took you time to make “your dream come true” by visiting us?
Any visit must be well prepared and as soon as I got the opportunity I decided to visit Kashmir. It is little late but I will try to be more present in the region in the future