A meeting that was overdue

By: Muhammad Aslam Bhat (Chief Editor Kns)

The June 26 review meeting on Cross LoC trade that took place between the union ministry of home
affairs and Jammu and Kashmir industries and commerce department, though late but is a welcome initiative. Realizing a need for further augmentation and streamlining of the trade that connects the people through exchange of goods across the border in the state is a result of the sustained struggle of the traders who exchange their goods on the LoC. While it was agreed that additional items preferably that are produced in Jammu and Kashmir can be included only after going through a set procedure, the ministry of home affairs also gave nod to pursue the banking facility of the traders with the government of Pakistan very vigorously. Telecommunication facility particularly ISD will be made available for senior officers dealing with the cross LOC trade and the designated heads of traders association. The meeting also expressed its willingness to upgrade the infrastructure at Trade Facilitation Centres at Salamabad, Uri and Chakan da Bagh and it has been learnt that MHA has agreed to fund Rs 10 Crores for Chakan Da Bagh and Rs 5 Crores for Uri TFCs. During the meeting enhancement of cash amount to be carried by the passengers travelling across to Pakistan administered part was also agreed to and a proposal to this effect will be submitted by the state home department to the union home ministry for approval. The importance of the cross LoC trade must be realized by the new dispensation in New Delhi that should look at this activity not through the prism of trade and economy but as a confidence-building measure to further strengthen the relations between the two neighbouring countries especially between the two divided parts of the Jammu and Kashmir. Though peace building is not a primary objective of the initiative, the cross LoC trade has also helped Kashmiri communities to start to rebuild severed relationships across the LoC even though the outcome has been limited by certain restrictions on movement of people across the border. Nevertheless, cross-border trade in Kashmir may ultimately have the potential to provide a reason to help build confidence in the India-Pakistan peace process, and to strengthen Kashmiri capacity to contribute to peace building in Kashmir. The meeting was overdue and need of the hour is to review the Cross LoC trade atleast on a monthly basis so that people associated directly or indirectly with this trade are not allowed to suffer for want of infrastructure and the modern market facilities. Both the countries must also cooperate with each other and extend all their support for making the cross LoC trade a success, if they really want cessation of hostilities and want a better future for their suffering populations, besides resolving Kashmir issue amicably.