CBMs To Strengthen Cross-LoC Trade Approved: India1 May 2010
New Delhi: India says it has unilaterally approved several Kashmir-related confidence building measures to strengthen cross-Line of Control trade, and is awaiting Pakistanís approval for their complete implementation. Presenting a monthly report from the Home Ministry, Home Secretary GK Pillai told reporters on Friday New Delhi had approved setting up a banking mechanism to eliminate barter system and increasing the number of trading days from two to four days a week. Pillai said the Defence Ministry had been asked to procure and install full-body truck scanners to facilitate checking at checkposts. The plan also involves upgrading infrastructure at the two trading centres at Salamabad in Uri along the Sringar-Muzaffaraabd road and Chakan da Bagh in Jammu region along the Poonch-Rawlakot road. The Telecommunication Ministry had also ordered permitting international calls from Indian-held Kashmir to Pakistan after a hiatus of 20 years. An order issued on Thursday had stated that the facility would be confined to select trade centres for cross-LoC trade. The ISD facility to Pakistan from IHK was withdrawn in 1990 following the outbreak of militancy. The official telephone provider, BSNL, had been asked to install ISD facilities in the offices of the Poonch district development commissioner, the manager of the district industries centre there, the custodian of LoC trade in Salamabad in north IHKís Baramulla district, and in the office of the Srinagar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The links will facilitate traders to talk to their counterparts across the border. Moreover, to ensure additional security, all traders registered for cross-LoC trade have been asked to collect their identity cards from the trade facility centres. Indian officials had been complaining that they do not hear from Pakistan over proposals on enhancing cross-LoC trade. Even the proposals of meetings of business chambers from both sides had not been responded to. Last month, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a proposal of the IHK government to permit Jammu and Kashmir Bank to open an Asian Currency Unit account at the State Bank of Pakistan to allow traders to trade in currency units rather than barter. The IHK government had been pressing the Indian and Pakistani banks to open vostro accounts of each otherís rupee for trans-LoC trade to recognise it as domestic trade instead of an import-export feeling coming from adopting the ACU method for payments by the traders on both sides. However, since the Indian and Pakistani rupees are not traded in each otherís country, the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of Pakistan will have to buy and sell the two currencies at fixed rate to prevent exchange risk to traders while trading in dual currency.