Kashmiri traders want more of India-Pakistan trade

By Sheikh Qayoom, IANS,

Srinagar : The announcement of Kashmir-linked measures, increasing travel and trade between India and Pakistan, has made the common man in Jammu and Kashmir happy but left the traders asking for more.

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Cross-Kashmir confidence-building measures (CBMs) were the centrepiece of the joint statement issued Wednesday after talks between Foreign Ministers S.M. Krishna of India and Hina Rabbani Khar of Pakistan.

New Delhi and Islamabad increased the number of trading days in a week from two to four. They said travel across the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Kashmir between them, would be expanded.

The trading list across LoC will also be reviewed, specifying permissible items. Travel procedures are to be simplified and frequency of bus services between the two Kashmirs will go up.

Nazir Ahmad, secretary of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was upbeat about the increase in the number of trading days but insisted that traders needed banking facilities.

“The main demand of the traders of providing banking facilities and ending the present barter system has not been accepted. We had also demanded that the cross LOC trade should be Rupee based as it is basically trade within the state,” said Nazir.

Another industry leader, Shakeel Qalandar, said: “The CBMs are welcome but the demand for allowing cross LOC trade in all tradable commodities has not been fulfilled.”

Hilal Ahmad Turki, general secretary of Cross LOC Traders’ Association, complained that “the main demands have not been fulfilled”.

However, common Kashmiris believe Khar has brought a new life into India-Pakistan relations.

“The young foreign minister of Pakistan has said the stated positions of each country should not become impediments in resolution of the problems. This is ultimately going to result in the solution of our problems,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a college lecturer.

Added Javaid Ahmad, 41, a television producer: “Khar said the burden of history should not stop the neighbours from moving ahead in building trust and confidence essential for good neighbourly relations. This does not mean Kashmir has been forgotten.

“It means the two countries have to reach a stage in mutual friendship where all sensitive and emotional disputes can be resolved peacefully,” he said.

Locals appreciated the shift in focus from war to peace between the two countries.

“They have talked of peace and that is the most important thing for us. Tension and war between India and Pakistan have always meant destruction for us. Peace between them would bring peace to our lives,” said Mehraj-ud-Din, a fruit seller.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])