Pakistan and India close to accord on trade across LoC
2 May 2006
The Daily Times
New Delhi: India and Pakistan are close to an agreement on trans-Kashmir trade and a new bus service, possibly before Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Islamabad. An eight-member delegation, led by Foreign Office Director General Ibne Abbas, met with their Indian counterparts on Tuesday to finalise arrangements for the start of a “truck service for trade” on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route, a bus service between Poonch and Rawalkot and the opening of the two meeting points on the Line of Control (LoC). “We covered a lot of ground on all items under discussion and are satisfied with the progress,” said Abbas. The meeting also discussed the nature and number of products to be traded. Sources said that a dozen items had already been identified. “However, Pakistan has made it clear that the route will only be reserved for the movement of Kashmiri products,” they said. Islamabad has offered duty and custom-free movement of Kashmiri goods across the LoC as a gesture towards Kashmiri traders, they added. Both sides have agreed that procedural details and modalities for travel permits will remain the same for the new services. Sources said the Ralwakot-Poonch bus service might start by the third week of June. Earlier, both delegations had announced they would issue a time frame for these confidence- building measures in a joint statement today (Wednesday). Trucks laden with Kashmiri goods are expected to be on the road in the first week of July, added sources. The proposal of establishing meeting points for day-long interaction between Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC was made by India last year. People living near the LoC were allowed to meet at five designated points in the wake of the October 8 earthquake. India and Pakistan will now allocate two points each amongst themselves for the sake of their management. Special enclosures will be constructed for people to come and meet their kin.