Call to increase intra-Kashmir trade
16 March 2007
Muzzaffarabad: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday renewed its appeal to India and Pakistan to take concrete steps to facilitate intra-Kashmir trade. The call was partly substantiated by a government functionary who separately urged both countries to make the travelling process between the two sides easy. “The business community on both sides of the Line of Control is anxiously awaiting practical steps that can help materialise intra-Kashmir trade and maximum interaction of divided Kashmiris,” said AJKCCI president Zulfiqar Abbasi. The AJKCCI has formed a 28- member delegation for a visit to Indian-held Kashmir through the Chakothi-Uri crossing point. Application forms of delegation members were submitted in Muzaffarabad on February 10. The visit supposed to start from March 12, has been delayed due to procedural complications. “We expected that in view of the significance of the visit the clearance process will be completed as early as possible. But much to our disappointment there is lukewarm response by our own authorities,” Mr Abbasi told Dawn from Mirpur. India and Pakistan had decided in May last year to fully implement measures to enhance interaction and cooperation across the LoC, including the early launching of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service for trade on agreed items. Exchange of trade delegations was part of those measures. On Wednesday, Pakistan proposed more Kashmir-specific confidence- building measures to India, including a helicopter service between the divided Kashmiri capitals. Mr Abbasi said that complicated clearance procedure introduced by both sides for trans-Kashmir travelling was hampering that exchange. “How can the CMBs deliver if a visit which enjoys official blessing is not being facilitated by authorities concerned,” said the AJKCCI chief. According to him, the Kashmiri business community was deeply concerned over the lack of facilities to help initiate intra-Kashmir trade. In a related development, the AJK cabinet welcomed the proposed Muzaffarabad- Srinagar chopper service terming it yet another positive mean of linkage between the divided Kashmiris. The AJK prime minister’s adviser on information, Raja Mohammad Yasin, said that all measures would remain worthless if the permission regime was not simplified. “The governments of Pakistan and India should make the procedure for travelling as simple as possible so that the Kashmiris could avail themselves of this facility without any hassle,” he said.