February 17, 2022.
The Dubai Expo, currently ongoing from October 2021-March 2022, is a massive normalization event where 192 nations are participating to display their achievements, areas for investment and reinforce their national identity. This year’s world expo has been crucial for India’s continued settler-colonial expansion in Kashmir. For the first time, each nation has its own pavilion to showcase its culture, goods, and accomplishments, and India has been one of the highest participating nations.
The Indian pavilion has featured various regions and their opportunities for investment and the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region was exhibited from January 3rd-13th. India is the second-largest trading partner of the UAE, and the UAE is India’s third, so it comes as no surprise that the Indian government is pushing for large investments in Kashmir from the gulf nation. India will continue its settler-colonial expansion of Kashmir by marketing Kashmir as a part of the Indian nation and bringing in massive investments, dispossessing Kashmiris in relation to a broader project of demographic change and erasing Kashmiri identity.
This year’s expo’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” has an emphasis on sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, but carries history steeped in colonialism and imperialism. Historically, world expos have served as a platform for nations to fortify and display their national identity, showing the wealth and progress of a nation without revealing the colonial and imperial violence required for producing it. India continues this tradition of empire building. The first world expo, the 1851 Great Exhibition in London had a spectacular greenhouse (The Crystal Palace) built to display the British Empire’s goods and commodities in all of their “splendor, while still hiding its brutal violence from wider audiences”. Nearly 200 years later the spectacular structure of Al Wasl dome was built for the Dubai Expo, exhibiting architectural feats and creating stunning visuals, inviting participating nations to present their culture and country all while masking the continuation of imperial violence. The UAE being no exception from the prior imperial and colonial host nations, as they too distract the world with national achievements and deflect from their profiteering off of the destruction of Yemen, and their role in the ongoing crisis. Nations essentialize cultures into commodities and claim them as part of their national identity, without addressing the violence enacted in order to obtain them. India can simultaneously claim Kashmiri culture as its own and impose Indian nationalism upon it through the commodification of Kashmiri land, culture, and identity.
At the expo, deals in J&K were made with Lulu Group, Al Maya Group, MATU Investments LLC, GL Employment Brokerage LLC, Century Financial, Noon E-Commerce, and Grandeur Business Solutions, as well as a letter of intent with Magna Waves Pvt Ltd and Emaar Group. These companies represent industries including healthcare, tourism, real estate, retail, and more, many with a massive global reach. Century Financial invested $100 million to build three hotels and one commercial-residential complex, and Emaar Group, a multinational real estate company with property throughout south/southwest Asia as well as in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, is planning on building a 500,000 sq ft mall in Srinagar. These developments will boost the economies of India, Dubai/the UAE as well as massive companies making investments by stealing Kashmiri land, displacing entire communities, and exploiting Kashmiri labor, or, bringing in Indian labor as a form of settlement.
Lulu Group is planning on setting up a food processing and logistics hub in Srinagar with an Rs 200 crore (~27 million USD) investment. During J&K week at the expo, geographical indication (GI) tagged Kashmiri saffron was put on display at the Lulu hypermarket with the intention of boosting trade between Dubai and Kashmir. A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin, possessing qualities or a reputation due to that origin. Kashmiri saffron was given a GI tag in July 2020 in order to put it on a global scale and allow for large conglomerates like Lulu Group to profit off of it. This furthers the exploitation of Kashmiri farmers and land in order to increase saffron production for Lulu Group and their markets. Stand With Kashmir protested the Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organization (JKTPO) and the Indian consulate in November 2020 for the sponsoring of their “Saffron Promotion” event, where Kashmiri saffron was again being commodified and utilized for profit. This commodification follows a legacy. During the first expo in 1851, the Crystal Palace greenhouse was used to show how Britain had control over the technology to increase production and circulation of the Cavendish banana, and with it control of the image and experience of the tropics and their colonies. Similarly now India is able to market and sell Kashmiri saffron as a part of a Kashmiri “experience” for tourists and investors; imposing control over its production and introducing large conglomerates to profit off its distribution.
The Dubai Expo reifies structures of imperial and colonial violence, providing a space where nationalism is strengthened and displayed. India’s participation in the Expo allows them to put forth messaging, goods, and technologies that align with their constructed national identity. Kashmir’s culture and land are severed from Kashmir and Kashmiri identity for the sake of India’s nationalism and settler-colonial ambitions.
Stand With Kashmir (SWK) is a Kashmiri-driven independent, transnational, grassroots movement committed to standing in solidarity with the people of Indian occupied Kashmir in ending the Indian occupation of their homeland and supporting the right to self-determination of the pre-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir. We want to hear from you. If you have general inquiries, suggestions, or concerns, please email us at email@example.com.