India, Pakistan Feud Over Pashminas

03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In their 60 years as nations and neighbors, Pakistan and India have frequently quarreled -- over cricket, over land, over nuclear testing. The latest area of contention: pashmina.

An handicrafts association backed by the Indian government has applied to register a Geographical Indicator tag for "Kashmiri Pashmina" as a mark for the rare soft wool from the underbelly of the capra hircus goat. It wants the Kashmiri original -- the wool Westerners call "cashmere" -- to be easily distinguished from imitations as the popularity of pashmina has soared and the word itself has become synonymous with a large scarf of thin wool. In effect, they want the same protection for Kashmiri Pashmina that champagne makers have for their bubbly.

But as a special tribunal in the southern Indian city of Chennai considers the application, the process has hit a snag. The reason: Pakistani authorities say they don't want pashmina from the Pakistani-administered portion of Kashmir to be excluded, or to face recriminations if merchants there use the term. The disputed territory of Kashmir, where producing the prized wool has been among the biggest businesses for centuries, straddles India and Pakistan and has been a key cause of three wars between the two South Asian powers since 1947.

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