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Tragic yarn: India-China border spat hits global cashmere production

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The world is heading for a shortage of the highly prized and super-soft cashmere wool as pashmina goats that live on the “roof of the world” become caught up in the fractious border dispute between nuclear neighbours India and China.

Wool from pashmina goats, reared by nomads in the inhospitable high-altitude cold desert region of Ladakh, is the most expensive and coveted cashmere in the world.

But the shaggy creatures that provide the yarn are being pushed out of their grazing lands in the tussle between the world’s two most-populous nations, causing the death of tens of thousands of kids this season, locals and officials said.

“In about three years when the newborn goats would have started yielding pashmina we’ll see a significant drop in production,” Sonam Tsering of the All Changtang Pashmina Growers Cooperative Marketing Society told AFP.

There have been numerous face-offs and brawls between Chinese and Indian soldiers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated.

The latest is concentrated in the Ladakh region, just opposite Tibet, with Indian officials claiming Chinese troops encroached over the boundary in recent weeks.

The alleged movements came after military fisticuffs at the eastern part of the border near Sikkim in May.

‘Newborns dead’

Some traditional grazing land is lost to China each year, Tsering said.

Disputed Kashmir. PHOTO: AFP /

But this year, even the main winter grazing areas near KakJung, Tum Tselay, Chumar, Damchok and Korzok are out of bounds amid the heightened tensions, he added.

“It’s devastating. The PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) used to encroach into our side by the metres, but this time they have come inside several kilometres,” said Jurmet, a former elected official who has only one name.

“It was breeding season for the goats. Around 85 percent of their newborns died this year because large herds were pushed out into the cold from the grazing lands (in February),” he told AFP over the phone from Leh, the region’s capital city.

Tsering said Indian soldiers were blocking the animals from entering areas deemed as sensitive, while herders told him the Chinese army was pushing Tibetan nomads into their grazing areas.

The shaggy creatures that provide the yarn are being pushed out of their grazing lands in the tussle between China and India. PHOTO: AFP/File / Noemi CASSANELLI

Half a dozen residents involved with goat herding who AFP spoke to said that until a few years ago, they would cross over the frozen Indus river for grazing during the winter, but those areas were now being encroached by China.

Meanwhile, communicating with the herders — whose satellite phones provided by Indian officials have been withdrawn in recent years — has become difficult, said Jurmet.

Vital industry

More than 1,000 families of nomadic Changpa herders roam the vast Changtang plateau grazing thousands of animals. PHOTO: AFP/File / Noemi CASSANELLI

The huge number of deaths — in the tens of thousands according to a local Indian official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity — could devastate the sector in the coming years.

The goats yield some 50 tonnes of the finest and most expensive feather-light cashmere wool each year, supporting the vital handicrafts industry in Kashmir that employs thousands of people.

Most of the wool is woven into yarn and exquisite shawls sold the world over from luxury store Harrods in London to the Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates, and can cost up to US$800 for one scarf.

More than 1,000 families of nomadic Changpa herders roam the vast Changtang plateau at over 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), grazing some 300,000 Pashmina goats, black yaks and horses through the summer months.

They move to the slightly lower altitude grazing lands straddling Tibet and along the mighty Indus river during harsh winter months of December to February when temperatures drop up to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

The military tensions are the latest blow for the herders, who are already reeling from the impact of climate change. PHOTO: AFP/File / Noemi CASSANELLI

The military tensions are the latest blow for the herders, who are already reeling from the impact of climate change which has made winters harsher and summers drier.

Some have even abandoned their generations-long way of life to migrate to towns in Ladakh in search of other sources of income.

Reporting and photos: AFP

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Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist

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Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives

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Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience

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CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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