MIRPUR (AJK)

AJK awaits the scheduled visit of about 40-member trade delegation from Indian Held Kashmir in the mid of August to share ideas with their local counterparts for the promotion of weekly cross-Line of Control trade through Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch routes.

The cross-LoC trade between Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Indian Held Kashmir is considered a confidence-building initiative. It started in October 2008 when authorities from both the countries flagged off the first truck-loaded with permitted items at Muzaffarabad bound for Srinagar across the Chakothi-Uri route.

The occasion raised a ray hope of improving bilateral relations besides facilitating the corporate sector at both the sides of the Line of Control. Subsequent, a number of obstructions and difficulties arose and the traders began to lose interest. The number of items dwindled from 21 to 3 or 4. So did the number of trucks carrying the goods. No facilities were provided to the traders and thus the whole affair began to appear a farce.

It appears that Nawaz government in Pakistan is interested in reviving relations with India including through promotion of bilateral trade. The government of Pakistan has reportedly accorded permission to 40 traders from the Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir to visit AJK and enter into mutual dialogue with their counterparts in Muzaffarabd, Kotli and Rawlakot.

The main meeting of the Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the sole representative forum of the business community of AJK and the Indian-held J&K state, is expected to be held in Mirpur soon after Eidul Fiter to discuss and suggest resolution of all obstructions in the flow of the ongoing slow-paced trans-LoC trade.

The Kashmiri traders hailing from both the sides LoC always consider that facilitating interaction between the two sides through trade and commerce across the LoC as a strong confidence building initiative.

 Three trade delegations from AJK have so far visited occupied Jammu &  Kashmir to exchange ideas for the promotion of cross-LoC trade with their counter parts in the occupied state.

“The trade delegation will visit Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bhimbher, Kotli and Rawalakot to discuss and review the ideas with their local counterparts for the promotion of cross-LoC trade sans the prevailing certain of undue restrictions,” Muhammad Sahfiq, Secretary AJK Chamber of Commerce & Industry Mirpur told this correspondent.

He opined that the frequent visits of the Kashmiri traders from both the sides of the LoC could help to encourage the joint moves of the governments of Pakistan and India to accord various facilities to the trading community.

“The much-awaited facilities like banking/telecommunication and single widow system as reportedly promised by the authorities at either side of the LoC time to time, coordination between the authorities inducted at LoC crossing points on Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch routes and other related issues could be resolved through such bilateral trips of the Kashmiri traders from both sides of the LoC to make the cross-LoC trade more vibrant and objective in line with the basic spirit of its launching,” Shafiq observed.

“More items could be included in the list of traded articles  and transit permits have to be eased to encourage the exchange of trade between either side of the LoC as is being stressed upon the local entrepreneur from both sides of the line of Control,” the AJKCCI official commented when asked to underline the problems.