Posted by: Vikram | July 10, 2017

Of Kashmir and Switzerland

Folks from the subcontinent often say that the valley of Kashmir is ‘like Switzerland’. A recent manifestation of this thought process was in the Hindi movie ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. A mute girl from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, gets lost in India, and tries to inform her benefactors of her origin; by pointing to a picture of Switzerland.

I wonder if those who claim to care deeply about Kashmir, have ever wondered what makes Switzerland, Switzerland.

After all, spectacular as it may be, there is no dearth of scenery amid tall, snowy mountains around the world, or indeed, even in the subcontinent. Have those who claim to worry about Kashmir, tried to ascertain what makes Switzerland so appealing to people around the world ?

Let me put forward a rather matter-of-fact perspective. What makes Switzerland so enticing basically comes down to this:


Largest Swiss corporations. Includes Nestle, Novartis, Roche and Swatch

A moutainous, landlocked country of 8 million people. But having some of the best known companies in the world. The mountains and snow dont define Switzerland’s appeal, they merely make it improbable. And it is this improbability, which is at the heart of Switzerland’s romantic pull.

There is no shortage of beautiful, landlocked places that are utterly poor, isolated and on the throes of complete depopulation. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Laos, Bulgaria …. being beautiful, and landlocked is almost a guarantee of poverty and neglect. And this is precisely what makes Switzerland so alluring, it is rich, and also happens to be beautiful and landlocked.

Those who claim to worry about Kashmir should ask themselves, how did Switzerland manage to become so implausibly rich ? Where did these multi-billion dollar enterprises, this spirited, sophisticated economy come from ? Why does Zurich airport handle nearly 30 million passengers every year ?

Thinking down this path, a realization has to set in. Your youth of today is your country of tomorrow. If you tell your youth, go out, acquire skills, build businesses, seek opportunities, markets and develop networks, you are going down the Switzerland path, regardless of geographical conditions. Wealth is ultimately about connections.

Ask yourselves. Are we giving this message to our youth ? If not, do we have a good reason for not doing so ? Are the stakes really that high ? That instead of telling our kids to build Nestles, and Roches we are goading them into Hizbuls and Lashkars ?


  1. I have this hypothesis. If a country or state is a fully dependent on tourism, then that is a poor & powerless country/state/area.

    Vikram, you have made a very good point I never thought about it. There is so much written about beauty of kashmir. After reading your article, it is clear to me that there are many many places like this. You may love to go there for a vacation but will never reside there. See a lot of migration from Uttarakhand hills is taking place and these places have a scenic beauty.

    • Yes, an economy dependent on tourism signals effective dependence, unless of course, the country is very small (like an island in the Carribean).

      In the last 500 years, Kashmir has rarely been able to hold on to its most talented people, who have either migrated to Punjab for business/government positions or to Delhi/UP. One outcome, apart from the economic backwardness, is that modern Kashmiri literature is nowhere as well developed as some of the other Indo-Aryan langauges.

      I feel like we will see a significant exodus of the valley’s population once the rail line from the plains to Kashmir is completed.

      • Your comment: “I feel like we will see a significant exodus of the valley’s population once the rail line from the plains to Kashmir is completed.” I have following question: Currently road connectivity is there. Kashmiris can use that to migrate.

        Also there is very little migration of Kashmiris to Middle East. Reasons are not known to me for that.

        Assuming your statement to be true. I like to know whether that will be good or bad for rest of India.

      • Yes, but rail will be significantly cheaper than road. This is important for the labour classes. A general compartment ticket from Mumbai to Patna costs 380 Rs, minimum bus fare I could find was 2200, and bus took 28 hours.

        Current Srinagar to Jammu bus is 500 Rs, and takes 10 hrs, Jammu to Delhi is 12 hrs around a 1000 Rs. Train should be able to get one Srinagar to Delhi in about 20 hrs, and at around 500 Rs.

        The migration of elite Kashmiri Muslims to metro cities in India, especially Delhi, is already quite prominent. There are 6 non-stop Srinagar to Delhi flights every day even in the dead of winter.

        I guess it will be good for both Indians and Kashmiris if the mass labour of Kashmir is able to find more productive work.

  2. पूर्णतया सहमत हूँ आपसे, ऐसा विश्लेषण पहली बार पढ़ा है इस मुद्दे पर
    बहुत खूब

    • धन्यवाद श्रीमान। देश के युवा की दिशा अंत मैं देश की दिशा बन जाती हैं।

      ब्लॉग का अनुगमन करने का शुक्रिया। आपका ब्लॉग दिलचस्प हैं, मैंने घरवालों और दोस्तों को भेजा हैं।

  3. शुक्रगुजार हूँ भाई, आते रहिएगा ब्लाॅग पर☺☺

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