India-China Standoff Puts Pashmina Wool Industry in Jeopardy 

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A 17-month-old standoff between India and China in the Himalayan border region of Ladakh is jeopardizing the six-century-old pashmina wool industry, which according to industry leaders employs nearly three-quarters of the population.

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According to reports, troops of both the countries stood face to face in the disputed area for more than a year after the June 2020 skirmish in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed and tension remains high. .

An artisan weaving pashmina cloth in Srinagar. (I & K photo)
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The dispute has cut off almost all access to pasture around the area where Ladakhi nomads have long kept an estimated 250,000 pashmina-producing Changthangi goats at altitudes above 4,200 m.

Zakir Hussain Zaidi, a businessman based in Leh, a town in India’s neighboring Himachal Pradesh state, said, “The Indian Army is not allowing the herders to go to higher altitudes for grazing and hence it has affected the production of wool.” One who buys wool directly from nomads.

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Pashmina wool, the finest version of cashmere, is six times thinner than a human hair and is highly valued in the international market. While most of the world’s cashmere comes from Mongolia, a certified hand-embroidered cashmere pashmina scarf can sell for several thousand dollars in the United States and Europe.

Pashmina shawls displayed at a showroom in Srinagar.  (Bilal Hussain/VOA)

Pashmina shawls displayed at a showroom in Srinagar. (Bilal Hussain/Granthshala)

Pashmina exporter Abdul Hamid Punjabi, former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Granthshala that border abrasion is just the latest problem to stop pashmina fiber production.

Other factors include the worldwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and India’s sudden move to abrogate Article 370 in 2019, which granted a degree of autonomy to the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir where most of the wool is processed. Is. The move was accompanied by a massive security shutdown and a prolonged curfew.



Indian security personnel stand guard on a deserted road during restrictions in Srinagar on August 5, 2019.

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According to Sheikh Ashiq, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, both the lockdown and the curfew have badly affected all aspects of the Kashmiri economy, including the Pashmina region.

Mahmood Ahmad Shah, director of Handicrafts and Handlooms Kashmir, said sluggish global demand and poor quality control by some traders have also contributed to the decline in pashmina sales. He told Granthshala that the export of the prized shawl has come down from $41 million in 2018-19 to just $23.16 million in 2020-21.

An artisan weaving pashmina cloth in Srinagar.  (I & K photo)

An artisan weaving pashmina cloth in Srinagar. (me and k photo)

Mujtaba Qadri, Founder Director of Luxury International Cashmere Brand me and k, attributing the decline of the industry to the low wages paid by the manufacturers to the weavers and artisans.

“On a personal level, I am trying my best and pay my artisans 50% more than what others pay,” Qadri said. spinning wheel

Pashmina industry leaders responded to the growing crisis last summer by setting up the Kashmir Pashmina Organization to advocate for their interests. Association president Mubashir Ahmed Shaw told Granthshala that raw pashmina prices would rise due to border friction, affecting the well-being of around 700,000 people involved in the trade.

Junaid Shahdhar, executive managing director of pashmina manufacturing and marketing company Phomb Fashion Pvt Ltd, shows a pashmina shawl in Srinagar.  (Bilal Hussain/VOA)

Junaid Shahdhar, executive managing director of pashmina manufacturing and marketing company Phomb Fashion Pvt Ltd, shows a pashmina shawl in Srinagar. (Bilal Hussain/Granthshala)

According to Junaid Shahdhar, executive managing director of pashmina manufacturing and marketing company Phamb Fashion Pvt Ltd, the price of one kilogram of raw pashmina has already increased from $37 to $47.

Paschiman goats in Leh.  (Shafqat Masoodi)

Paschiman goats in Leh. (Shafqat Masoodi)

The industry’s problems are echoing in Ladakh, where an estimated 1,600 to 1,700 nomadic families make a difficult existence to raise Changthangi goats, which produce the precious fiber.

“They are leading a very difficult life and their children don’t want to continue,” said Konchok Stanzin, a councilor representing a border constituency in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

City market in Leh, a town in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India.  (Bilal Hussain/VOA)

City market in Leh, a town in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. (Bilal Hussain/Granthshala)

Recently Stanzin presented a list of demands Requesting Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to allot land in Leh city for border residents who are finding lives near the tense Line of Control separating India from China is no longer viable.

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