LoC Is Line Of Commerce

25 September 2008
Asian Age

New York: India and Pakistan declared on Wednesday that trade across the Line of Control will begin on October 21 this year while modalities for the opening of the Skardu-Kargil road will be discussed. The decision after the first meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistanís new President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, envisages cross-LoC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot roads. It was also decided to open the Wagah-Attari road link and Khokrapar-Munabao railway route to all permissible items of trade. Both countries will also continue 'interaction between Planning Commissions to develop mutually beneficial cooperation, including in the energy sector'. A joint statement issued on Wednesday by Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari after they met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, acknowledged that the peace process initiated by both India and Pakistan has been 'under strain in recent months'. Terror and ceasefire violations remained high on the agenda, sources said. The one-to-one meeting was held at the Millennium Plaza Hotel here. Hours before the meeting, Mr Zardari tried to play to his domestic gallery by telling the Pakistani media that 'Kashmir remained the core issue'. But he did not raise the issue of UN resolutions that call for a plebiscite. Prior to the meeting, Mr Zardari hugged an unprepared Dr Singh and hailed the Prime Minister for 'changing the face of India'. 'You are the leader of modern India,' Mr Zardari said to Dr Singh. When the visual media pressed Mr Zardari for a repeat performance, he indicated towards the Prime Minister and said in jest, 'He (Dr Singh) will get offended.' However, speaking to the media later, Prime Minister Singh hoped for a 'peaceful, prosperous and stable Pakistan'. As terrorism continues to plague India and Pakistan, both leaders spoke of setting up an anti-terror mechanism. Dr Singh also referred to the blast at the Indian embassy at Kabul. A special meeting of the joint anti-terror mechanism will be held in October to address mutual concerns, 'including the Kabul bombing', the joint statement read. The role of Pakistanís ISI was also discussed by India, sources disclosed. Mr Zardari reassured Dr Singh that his government 'stands by its commitment of January 6, 2004', when Pakistan had committed to strike against the terror outfits operating on its home turf. 'Severe action would be taken against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts,' the joint statement maintained. The joint statement maintained that both Prime Minister Singh and the Pakistani President 'agreed that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share for a bilateral relationship'. It was felt that 'the ceasefire should be stabilised and the DGMOs and sector commanders have to stay in regular contact'. India refused to join issue with Mr Zardari on the Kashmir issue. Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon asserted that 'Indiaís position on the Kashmir issue is quite clear'. As per the joint statement, both leaders 'agreed that the forces that have tried to derail the peace process must be defeated'. It felt this would 'allow the continuation and deepening of a constructive dialogue for the peaceful resolution and satisfactory settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir'