MIRPUR (AJK)

A three-day intra-Kashmir conference concluded in Srinagar with strong recommendations to the governments of Pakistan and India to take measures for restoring and maintaining the sanctity of ceasefire, travel and trade on the LoC.

The LoC divides the internationally-acknowledged disputed Himalayan State of Jammu & Kashmir. As per a report reaching here Wednesday, the conference was organised by Centre for Dialogue & Reconciliation (CDR) in Srinagar from October 27-29, 2015. It was the 17th Cross-LoC dialogue conference organised and facilitated by CDR since 2005.

About 50 participants representing all the five regions of erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir deliberated upon important themes - ‘Strengthening cross-LoC CBMs: Ceasefire, Travel and Trade’, ‘Resolving Kashmir and Evolving Ramifications’ and ‘Natural Disasters and Community Response’.

After three days of intense discussions held in a candid atmosphere, the participants, including 11 delegates from Azad Jammu & Kashmir, unanimously made some recommendations to India, Pakistan and public representatives and stakeholders of Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, the report said.

The group noted that India and Pakistan should maintain the sanctity of the 2003 ceasefire agreement on the LoC and formalize it; avoid heavy artillery in the populated areas, and ensure demining on the LoC as per international standards to prevent human casualties on both sides; hold regular DGMO meetings and increase frequency of local command level meetings as well; strictly follow the existing 48-hour moratorium on retaliation; carefully handle all inadvertent crossings on either side of the LoC; and migration of wildlife should not be restricted for security reasons.

It also noted that India and Pakistan should: a) make all the five agreed trans-LoC routes opened earlier fully operational; b) open Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkot routes; c) expand cross-LoC travel beyond divided families to all the state subjects of erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir. Simplify documentation and ease of travel procedures for cross-LoC travel; d) pilgrimage tourism and student exchange programs should be encouraged; and e) allow composite mushairas once a year at Poonch, Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.

The group said that a) already recommended suggestions should be implemented in a time bound manner; b) SOP’s need to be improved as per the present business scenario; c) enhance the product list with specific HS codes; d) barter should be converted to currency/banking system. Alternate currency Unit (ACU) is already available between India and Pakistan which can be implemented for LoC trade as well; and banking facility with Nostro-Vostro account as already recommended by the chambers should be implemented to formalise the trade.

It also demanded that Intra-State Tax should apply for the goods moving outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir; improve infrastructure at crossing points with full body truck scanners, communication facilities, provide guest houses and meeting halls at trade facilitation centers where meetings can take place regularly; multi entry time bound Permits should be issued to traders to take part in marketing, trade fairs etc.; and a dispute resolution mechanism should be created

It demanded that trade should not get disrupted by violence; encourage women entrepreneurship in cross-LoC trade; open communication links, direct telephone line from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad and Poonch to Rawalakot; and financial data with transparency should be recorded and made available on web.

The group acknowledges the anxiety of all regions of Jammu & Kashmir at the present stalemate on the Kashmir issue. It urges all stakeholders to restart processes towards resolving the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.

It demanded: 1 Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness should be included as a new Confidence Building Measure; 2. create an institutional synergy on Disaster Management according to: Operational Framework; a) setting up of hydrological, meteorological, seismological and GIS centres on scientific lines on both sides of the LOC; b) sharing of hydrological, seismological, meteorological and GIS data between the two centres. These would be the first centres to issue early warning; c) creating a dynamic platform between the government and non-governmental stakeholders in disaster management to share information and resources sharing across the LOC; a dialogue process should be initiated between the public representatives of all 5 parts of the state of J&K which can collaborate on evolving a joint disaster response; documentation and dissemination of best practices in the entire state is required; and collaboration of research institutions on both sides of the LOC on themes related to disaster forecasting, risk modelling and risk prediction and Identifying disaster ‘hot-spots’ in the whole state through such research etc.