Valley Traders Pessimistic On Cross LOC Trade

27 July 2008

Srinagar: Proposal of cross LOC trade in view of the recent foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan has evoked cold response from economic sections in Kashmir who say that trade modalities need to be fixed positively before initiation of the trade. Valley’s trade fraternity says cross LoC trade has been in the agenda of Indo-Pak negotiations for past three years yet it awaits implementation. They say there are many factors including the items and the terms of trade that need to be considered positively by both the countries before the trade between the two Kashmirs could be brought into practice. “Speculations have been going on for past three years but we have never been certain about the modalities of the trade. Being a consumer state we first need to see what we can trade with Pakistan?,” said the president of Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FCIK), Shakeel Qalander, adding that the state has many things to trade with Pakistan. “However whether the goods would be accepted across LoC or not still remains to be seen.” He added “We are not even sure whether cross LoC trade will be restricted to Muzaffarabad or it includes rest of Pakistan as well.” Qalander however said that trade across LoC would serve more as a Confidence Building Measures (CBM) than helping the growth of trade and commerce in the state. He however said, “The step would help in bringing peace into the state and we would welcome the step.” Senior vice president Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Nazir Ahmad Dar said: “The trade across LoC shall be a boost to economy of the state but it needs to be handled in a positive manner to bring it into practice.” Elaborating the benefits of trade across LoC Dar said, “Pashmina and fruit industry will benefit most the trade across LoC because Pakistan is a potential market for these industries.” Dar added that “Two years ago we presented a list of members to Delhi who could go to Pakistan as a delegation. But after the completion of all the formalities the process came to halt.” He recalled that a list of the possible items that could be traded across LoC was also presented to the authorities however the process never progressed. Shakeel and Dar maintained that trade fraternity in Kashmir has been looking forward to cross LoC trade and they would welcome any offer to send trade delegations to Pakistan. “We are ready to send any delegations to Muzaffarabad and we will welcome trade across LoC,” they said. To mention India and Pakistan at a Joint Secretary-level talks, past week, were to discuss various ideas and proposals to enhance people-to-people contacts and trade across LoC. Both the countries were expected to give a push to the cross-LoC CBMs including the launch of a truck service. Economist Professor Nisar Ali said, “India and Pakistan have a conflict of interest associated with the trade and that delays the implementation of the trade across LoC.” He said Pakistan being a more of a consumer state trade across LoC would benefit India more. “Pakistan is a potential market to Indian goods therefore, both the countries need to settle all the modalities before going for the trade,” he said. Ali said that the trade across LOC could be of importance to horticulture and handicraft industry and it would help the growth of the state economy. “Muzaffarabad is a closer market for the fruit growers and they can gain much benefit by selling their produce in Pakistan than in Indian markets,” he said, adding that if approved trade across LOC would increase the market for the products from Kashmir.