Emulate India-China model of trade across LoC: Indian minister
2 August 2007
The Daily Times
Islamabad: India has suggested emulating its model of trade with China to allow flow of goods across the Line of Control (LoC) through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road in Jammu and Kashmir. The model of trade could be similar to that used in the Nathula pass in Sikkim for trade between India and China, said Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh. The issue of cross-LoC trade, which has been on the table over the past two years, figured during Rameshs meeting with Pakistan Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Ali Shah, who called on the minister at his office. Shah said Pakistan was in favour of free trade across the LoC, and said trade of a limited basket of goods across the LoC should be allowed. Neither the minister nor the secretary divulged why the truck service on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route that both countries had agreed to two years ago had not started to date. Ramesh, who recently visited Srinagar and the LoC at Salamabad point in Kashmir, has been an ardent advocate for cross-LoC trade. He said the time had come to promote trade across the LoC to achieve economic integration between the two parts of Kashmir. This will certainly help in economic development, he said. Ramesh said Kashmiri handicrafts, apples and other fruits have a tremendous market abroad. India needs to shed the mindset of only exporting and not importing, said Ramesh. Pakistan is the third largest importer of tea in the world, but they are not importing it from India, the largest producer of tea. Similarly, Pakistan has large quantities of molasses, but we do not import it from Pakistan. Last year, Indias exports to Bangladesh exceeded $2 billion, but imports amounted to just $200 million. He said a way to balance trade flow was to allow Indian companies to invest in neighbouring countries. Our imports from Sri Lanka increased after we invested there, he said. He wondered why the same formula could not be applied to Bangladesh and Pakistan.