The Latest Dispute
And India: Pashmina
January 10, 2008
NEW DELHI -- In their 60 years as nations and neighbors, Pakistan and India have frequently quarreled -- over cricket, over land, over nuclear testing. The latest area of contention: pashmina.
|A Kashmiri woman weaves traditional handcrafted pashmina on a spinning wheel.|
An handicrafts association backed by the Indian government has applied to register a Geographical Indicator tag for "Kashmiri Pashmina" as a mark for the rare soft wool from the underbelly of the capra hircus goat. It wants the Kashmiri original -- the wool Westerners call "cashmere" -- to be easily distinguished from imitations as the popularity of pashmina has soared and the word itself has become synonymous with a large scarf of thin wool. In effect, they want the same protection for Kashmiri Pashmina that champagne makers have for their bubbly.
But as a special tribunal in the southern Indian city of Chennai considers the application, the process has hit a snag. The reason: Pakistani authorities say they don't want pashmina from the Pakistani-administered portion of Kashmir to be excluded, or to face recriminations if merchants there use the term. The disputed territory of Kashmir, where producing the prized wool has been among the biggest businesses for centuries, straddles India and Pakistan and has been a key cause of three wars between the two South Asian powers since 1947.
|Pashima shawls come in an array of colors and styles.|
Zulfikar Abbasi, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the part of Kashmir currently occupied by Pakistan, claims the Indian government has been trying to pull the wool over its neighbor's eyes by seeking to obtain exclusive rights to the "Kashmiri Pashmina" name without consulting Pakistanis. He adds that the quality of the wool on both sides of the border is the same.
The Indians aren't so sure. "We don't want to comment on the quality of the pashmina produced on the other side," says M.S. Farooqi, director of the Craft Development Institute in Srinagar, a city in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which filed the application.
The tribunal is expected to decide on the issue as soon as mid-January. It may stitch together a compromise and allow both India and Pakistan to use the term. Or it may ask India to refile a joint application with Pakistan. Or it could sour relations further by declaring a victory for India.