Indian PM unveiled $4bn-worth of projects and said Middle Eastern countries are eager to invest in region bordering Pakistan PM addressing at the laying foundation stone of multiple development projects, in Jammu on February 20, 2024. © PIB

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced projects worth almost $4 billion (320 billion rupees) for the development of Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region at the heart of a long-standing border dispute between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Modi visited the region on Tuesday, months after India’s Supreme Court upheld the abolition of Article 370 of the country’s constitution, which had granted a degree of autonomy to the former princely state. Under the key feature of Article 370, laws passed by the Indian parliament did not automatically apply to Jammu and Kashmir, with the local legislature retaining the right to approve them by passing parallel acts. The federal government revoked this special status in 2019 and divided the region into two federally administered union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Speaking at an event in Jammu, Modi claimed that instead of “disappointing news” of “bombs, kidnappings, and separation” coming from Kashmir, the region is now “developing and moving forward.” Having recently returned from visits to the UAE and Qatar, he also claimed that Gulf countries have shown “positivity” about investing in Kashmir.

Indian government promises justice after civilian ‘torture’ deaths in Kashmir Indian government promises justice after civilian ‘torture’ deaths in Kashmir

Modi argued that the region had been held back because of the special provision in Article 370, which he described as a “hurdle.” The investments pledged will be poured into health, education, transportation, energy, and civic infrastructure. The PM also mentioned an upcoming Bollywood movie – ‘Article 370’ – depicting events leading up to the decision to revoke the provision. The film, Modi stressed, would help people get “correct information.”

Addressing the gathering alongside Modi, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha claimed a 75% decrease in terrorist activities in the region. India repeatedly accuses Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism, which the latter rejects. “Markets, schools, and universities now remain open throughout the year,” Sinha was quoted by Hindustan Times as having said.

Kashmir was the site of several major wars and sporadic military clashes continue, despite a ceasefire along the Line of Control and International Border, agreed in February 2021. After the Indian parliament abolished Article 370, already fragile ties between New Delhi and Islamabad further nosedived – Pakistan responded by drastically scaling down its diplomatic and economic relations with India.

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