After disputing control of Kashmir for more than six decades, India and Pakistan are now engaged in a squabble over a patent for Kashmir Pashmina, a product experts say is the best of its kind. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinigar.
Pashmina, or Cashmere, as it is generally known in the West, originated in Kashmir, and is still regarded by many as better than similar products from neighboring Himalayan regions. Although often regarded as synonymous with Cashmere, Kashmir's Pashmina is also different from its Australian variant.
Indian efforts to get a Geographical Indicator Patent registered for Kashmir Pashmina have hit a snag with opposition from neighboring Pakistan.
In August 2006, the GI patent registry, based in the south Indian city of Chennai, accepted an application from the Craft Development Institute for a location-specific patent for Kashmir Pashmina.
The Craft Development Institute is located in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, and is backed by the Indian government.
But, Pakistan objects to the application and demands that Pashmina produced in its portion of Kashmir be included in the patent.
Muhammad Shariq Farooqi heads the Craft Development Institute in Srinagar. He explains the need for a Kashmir Pashmina patent.
"Pashmina has become a generic name. Nepal says it is producing Pashmina," Farooqi said. "China says it is producing Pashmina. We should have protected the name earlier. So we are already late. The application should have gone ten years earlier."
A lack of product standards also makes a patent important.
"Because of becoming generic it is misused," Farooqi said. "So, something which is not actually of this standardized specification is also called Pashmina. So, what is happening is that you are losing a great share of business."
Farooqi says it is up to the patent authorities to decide what items are covered under the patent, but he questions the quality of products produced on the Pakistani side.
"I have seen products from Pakistan. I personally feel that it doesn't have the same quality as is produced in Srinagar," he said. "We have seen things from China, Nepal, they are much of the products which are not entirely of a manual process."
Kashmir boasts of producing high-quality Pashmina products through a tedious, traditional, manual process that originated here.
The Kashmiri handicraft industry has been hurt by years of conflict as well as competition from lower-priced products and fakes. Further delay in getting a geographically specific patent will likely mean more hardship for Kashmir's Pashmina business.