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Is Pashmina Wool Threatened By India-China Border Issues?

There is no doubt that a Pashmina shawl is one of the most cosy and attractive garments a lady could wear this winter, with the bonus that it will still be perfectly suited to being worn stylishly at other times of the year.

Such joy in having a garment of this kind is something that will have been shared with countless millions across the globe for centuries as the fine wool from the underbellies of Himalayan goats has been woven into shawls, scarves, skirts, jumpers and much else, once to the delight of those living in the steppes but, for several hundred years now, through various trade routes to Europe and beyond.

However, while these trade routes have mostly been kept open down the ages through the power of European colonial powers, now some of the elevated areas where the goats and their herders live are sandwiched between modern Asian giants, economic and military powers that have more than occasionally eyed each other suspiciously across borders and have often crossed swords.

So it is today, reports the Washington Post. In recent years, China and India, the two most populous nations on the planet, have been engaged in a mini Cold War over the area close to Pangong Lake in Ladakh. The two countries fought a battle over the area in 1962 and both have maintained an armed presence in the vicinity ever since. Today, a Chinese military base sits on the lakeside.

This front may not be quite as much of a hotspot as the hugely fortified border between the two Koreas, or the old Iron Curtain in Europe. But the process of de-escalation since a deadly skirmish in 2020 has involved an Indian withdrawal to create a two-mile buffer zone. That no-man’s land has also become a no-goat’s land, preventing herders from grazing their herds there.

All this, the paper notes, threatens the local supply of Pashmina wool. Local government representative in Ladakh Konchok Stanzin noted: “Almost all our winter grazing areas now fall under newly agreed buffer zones.”

This has led to a major increase in the cost of cashmere wool from $120 a kilo to $220 over the past couple of years and the potential threat is growing. Kashmiri weaving co-operative member Showkat Amad Mir told the paper: “The supply of raw cashmere wool was disturbed. If the conflict continues, there will be a huge decline in Pashmina goats.”

All that may make now a good time to invest in Pashmina items, lest supplies dwindle in the future, although the Washington Post article does note that much of the wool comes from other locations, including China itself, Mongolia and Afghanistan. (The supply from the latter, of course, may be another area of doubt given the country’s recapture by the Taliban).

Demand is certainly not about to drop anytime soon. A recent study 360 Market Updates revealed that the pure cashmere market is set for major growth in the 2023-2028 period. That means there will be many opportunities for producers in Asia - providing they can access the land needed to graze their herds and keep supplies coming.
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