Study favourstrade through 5 LoC points

4 October 2008
The Nation

KARACHI (PPI) : While India and Pakistan are set to start cross-LoC (Line of Control in disputed Kashmir) trade from Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch- Rawalakote roads from October 21, 2008, a study supported by US-based research institute suggested exploring possibility of permitting cross-LoC trade from five crossing points in Jammu & Kashmir which were opened for relief when a massive earthquake hit the region in 2005.'The possibility of border trade being permitted at five crossing points opened for quake relief is worth exploring for convenience of people living on both sides of LOC,' recommends research study Making Borders Irrelevant, undertaken by Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies IPCS, New Delhi, supported and published by United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a research institute based in Washington.It says roads that lead to these crossing points could be upgraded to permit truck traffic, assuming it is found to be commercially viable. Undertaken by PR Chari, a research professor at IPCS, a think tank in New Delhi & Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defence expert from Pakistan, now visiting professor in Washington, it is supported by parallel surveys carried out by Suba Chandran and Rashid Khan, on both sides of LoC.Calling for re-opening pilgrimage routes in all parts of J&K, including Ladakh & Northern Areas, it also suggests 'establishment of rail links between Jammu and Sialkot, between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad (and from there onward to Abbotabad & Rawalpindi).'It recommends: Promoting people-to-people contact; increasing trade and commerce across LoC; encouraging humanitarian aid, development; improving governance, including security administration. The study is based on premise that 'neither India nor Pakistan has been able to impose its preferred solution on long-standing Kashmir conflict, both sides have gradually shown more flexibility in their traditional positions on Kashmir, without officially abandoning them. This development has encouraged consideration of new, creative approaches to the management of conflict.'It calls to restore telephone landlines and expanding mobile phone services across LoC. J&K people are not allowed to make direct telephone calls across LoC. There should be enhanced access to Internet on both sides of LOC, which will allow journalists for electronic, print media to develop closer contacts.It considers sharing information between both parts of J&K on weather conditions, seismic activity, water flow in rivers to generate early warnings of floods, other natural disasters. It could evolve in long-term process of monitoring, researching retreat of glaciers, incidence of earthquakes and other environmental concerns.'No steps, whether short-term or long-term, can be taken until tensions between India and Pakistan cease. The reality is India-Pakistan relations cannot be dramatically improved in short run, nor can all outstanding problems be resolved quickly. Unrealistic expectations that progress in making borders irrelevant in Kashmir will be swift and Indo-Pak relations will rapidly improve could lead to frustrations.'