MIRPUR (AJK) - Analysts including the leaders of local entrepreneurs have expressed disappointment over the outcome of the recent Indo-Pak meeting held in Islamabad on the issues of trans-Line of Control trade and travel.
The local entrepreneurs were expecting a breakthrough vis-à-vis expanding the cross-LoC trade through introducing a liberal regime from both the sides of the line of control. The trans-LoC trade was launched on October 21, 2008, as one of the major confidence building measures by India and Pakistan to facilitate the traders at both the sides to promote and strengthen the economic ties between the traders of Azad Jammu & Kashmir and the Indian-administered Kashmir .
“It was expected that New Delhi and Islamabad would take some concrete steps to strengthen cross Line of Control trade but the outcome of the meeting is extremely disappointing,” said Ershad Mahmood, an independent analyst and director of an AJK-based NGO.
Commenting on the joint statement issued after the Thursday’s Islamabad meeting of the joint working group of India and Pakistan, Ershaad Mahmood said, “In fact, they just reviewed the process but no tangible step was taken to lessen the traders constrains such as traders’ free movement across LoC and banking or communication facilitation.
“Both the Pakistani and the Indian governments should take traders into confidence and make some serious steps otherwise this trade would be drastically reduced,” he warned.
A Young Islamabad-based Kashmiri scholar from AJK, Syed Waqas Ali Kausar, was of the view that the statement issued by the foreign office on expanding ties across LoC was encouraging. But, he believed, joint working should be made inclusive of all stakeholders to come up with realistic and workable initiatives.
“Jammu & Kashmir people at both sides of the LoC were expecting some concrete measures in black and white for strengthening of ties and settlement of disputes of trade and travel which is mired in bottleneck across the divide which so far has not been done,” Kausar said in a chat with this scribe. “So far progress of joint working group has been symbolic.”
“The traders engaged in cross-LoC were expecting from the meeting, introduction of banking facilities, enhancing the volume of trade from existing four-days to across the week and acceptance of other demands, moved since long, to both the governments by the Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry to promote trade,” said Mubeen Khan, the Senior Vice President of the AJK Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “But no step was taken to this direction by the two countries.”
The AJK CCI leader expressed his serious concerns over delaying the banking facility and continuing the LoC trade on barter system, which, in his view, has deprived majority of the Kashmiris on both sides.
Mubeen, who was the part of 19-member AJK CCI delegation which had visited in October 2008 opening avenue of cross-LoC trade, strongly suggested that the banking facility must be kept in place without any further delay whereas process of inclusion of further tradable items in the trade list must be completed in consultation with Joint Chamber and regional chambers before the fourth anniversary of the cross LoC trade in October.
He also thanked both the governments for expansion and reiterated that fullyfacilitated LoC trade would help create a peaceful and helping environment to seek a sustaining and peaceful solution of Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.