Pakistan delaying trans-Kashmir trade
19 August 2006
The Daily Times
New Delhi: Former Indian foreign secretary MK Rasgotra accused Pakistan on Friday of delaying trans-Kashmir trade. Rasgotra, who heads Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singhs working group on cross-Line of Control (LoC) contacts, told a meeting of its members that India had referred a list of 70 Kashmiri businessmen to Pakistan, who were supposed to travel to Muzaffarabad to fine tune details for cross- Kashmrir trade. But even after six months, he said, there had been no response from Islamabad. The delay in cross-LoC trade is from Pakistan and not from this side. However, he also disclosed that Islamabad had sent a list of 40 businessmen for New Delhis approval, adding that he hoped that trucks would soon start plying the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. Members of the group, one of the five working groups on Kashmir established by Dr Singh in May, have previously complained about the procedural complications that restrict travel between Srinagar-Muzaffabad and Poonch-Rawlakot. Rasgotra said that his group would suggest measures to ease travel restrictions, adding that a mechanism would soon be evolved to open up additional points along the LoC, thereby providing more avenues for cross-border interaction. Tariq Hameed Qarrah, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representative at Fridays meeting, suggested an exchange of visits by the legislators and civil society representatives from both sides of divided Kashmir to promote free exchange of views and ideas and to discuss areas of mutual interest and concern. He also suggested frequent exchanges of media persons, cultural troupes, students, trade delegations, pilgrims and tourists. Calling for a permit system along the lines of the India- Nepal travel system, the PDP identified traditional cross-LoC connections as Lipa Valley, Tanghdar, Karnah, Kargil and Suchetgarh. Qarrah also proposed that the old Silk Route connecting the subcontinent to Central Asia be renamed the Gas Route, adding that it could provide energy to the whole region via Jammu and Kashmir. This, he said, would not only boost the economic prosperity of countries in the region, but would also develop their stakes in Kashmiri peace. The PDP leader further suggested a joint mechanism at the non-government level be set up on disaster management, disease management and environmental issues. He said that such cooperation could be expanded in the future to the official level, covering such sectors as water resources, horticulture, forests and tourism on both sides of LoC. This, he said, would aid the development of a uniform policy across the territory.