he starting point of my thesis is that Diversity and Tolerance are the core foundational principles that made Kashmir great. Today a sectarian, intolerant ideology has re written Kashmir’s core principles. The old institutions both formal and informal where civil society could engage are no more. Reinstating them so that we can return to the Valley with dignity and honor has no champions and continues to encounter severe hostile resistance. The Government has to catalyze new institutions where Kashmiri civil society can engage in constructive win win activity without ideological baggage. Such new paradigm platforms are easier to incubate at the circumference where we the diaspora operate and once successful can then be ported back into the Valley. I will provide four baby steps each one of which is already past the proof of concept stage and can have a long tail.
Recommendation one would be to create a Global Jammu and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce. This would be an institution that would connect Kashmir to a Global economy. Government would fund the building and administration of the platform but it would be structured so that a non bureaucratic Leadership Private Trust administers it and ensures that it has true plurality representation. Kashmiri Pandits today are a significant force globally in entre preneurship and their potential can be leveraged to reinvigorate all of Kashmiri society.
Recommendation two is to pick Education and Health Services and create centers of Excellence with Kashmiri Pandits driving it’s administration and governance since they can bring significant leverage to bear on these sectors. The quality of graduating students in Kashmir has fallen abysmally which affects job prospects. The same is true for the level of medical care. Letters of Intent for Public private partnerships can be created which are open to all Kashmiris but where offshore KP’s in partnership with locals are given stakes in the system and win on the basis of meritocracy and not corrupt access.
Recommendation three is to create a Jammu and Kashmiri offshore coordinator office. This would be open for all Kashmiris but Offshore Kashmiri non Muslims are the most vulnerable in terms of being able to protect their rights in the Valley. Until Kashmir establishes a Cabinet level position for minorities this office can address the frustration that Offshore Kashmiris feel as they see laws being enacted that are prejudicial to the continuation of their State Subject rights, protection of property, ability to exercise voting rights and even continued full participation in the spiritual life of their community given the discriminatory provisions of the proposed Temple Shrine bill.
Recommendation four is to create a Global Kashmiri Aesthetic council. Why aesthetics? Because Kashmir’s signal contribution to Indic culture has been in aesthetics and the aesthetic experience transcends narrow sectarian magnets and will gradually reverse the closing of the Kashmiri mind. With the sole exception of Kashmir every other Indian state has an annual convention in the US. Why the overseas Diaspora’s involvement at a strategic aesthetic level as opposed to a material level? Because as these global Kashmiri artists connect the Kashmiri diaspora sustainably to their culture and to each other via an annual Festival of Kashmir held in US, UK, Europe, Middle East they will not only gain global recognition but also take back a more inclusive message congruent with the universality of Sufi messages and the transcendental unity of Kashmir Shaivism which is in the Kashmiris jigar and Dilip ji jigar means heart of Kashmir. Thank you.
*Rakesh K. Kaul serves as Senior Advisor and Board Member of Oriental Trading Co., a $600MM direct/ecommerce marketer of Educational and Party Goods Supplies. He is a Senior Advisor and Board Member to Life Line Screening, a leading, consumer direct, preventive health screening company. He is Chairman of Spherenomics LLC which since 2001 has focused on Indo US Cross Border Business Ventures in a principal capacity. He has served as Senior Advisor to The Carlyle Group ($ 91 B) Consumer and Retail Group from 2007 to 2010.
He served as the President and Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Hanover Direct, Inc. ($ 600MM) in Weehawken, New Jersey, from March 1996 to December 2000. Starting in 1992, Rakesh served as Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, and Member of the Board of Directors for Fingerhut Companies ($ 2 B) in Minneapolis. In 1994, Rakesh was promoted to Vice Chairman and promoted again in 1995 to Chief Operating Officer where he served until March 1996. He was the Founder of Metris Credit Card companies which generated a Market cap of $1.6 B. From 1987 to 1992, Rakesh held senior management positions with Shaklee Corporation ($ 700MM) in San Francisco. He served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Finance/Chief Financial Officer and was a Board Member. During 1976 to 1987, Rakesh was with Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson, Inc. ($ 2.5B), as Director for Corporate Development and Planning as well as serving in various financial positions.
Rakesh received his undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India. He received his M.S. from Brown University and was awarded his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He has a CPA from the State of California. As a Global executive Rakesh has worked extensively in Japan, China, India, Canada and the US for 30 years in the areas of Consumer Products, Retailing, Ecommerce and Consumer Finance.
His community service involvement has included memberships on corporate Boards such as Smith & Hawken, I Behavior and community Boards including the Bay Area United Way, and the Direct Selling Association. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was a Trustee of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as also a Board member of the Direct Marketing Association Finance Committee. He was an Executive VP and Board Member of the Association for Corporate Growth. He was a founding contributor to the Chair of India Studies at Berkeley and CASI at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a President’s Circle Member of the Asia Society, New York, a Charter member of TIE and the US Group. He served as Board member of the Dwight Englewood School and served as Co Head of their Major Gifts Campaign. He is active in supporting refugees in the state of Kashmir India and was Co Chairman of The Arts of Kashmir Exhibition 2007 at the Asia Society. He is the Co-Chair for the IIT Delhi Excellence Foundation in North America.
Rakesh and his wife, Sushma, a pediatric endocrinologist, have two sons, Shiva and Dhruva and reside in Bergen County, New Jersey, USA.
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