Independent observers and local traders across the Line of Control (LoC) have expressed dissatisfaction over the outcome of the recent meeting between Pakistan and India in Islamabad regarding trade and travel across the de facto border.
Trans-LoC trade was launched on October 21, 2008 as a confidence-building measure to improve bilateral relations and economic ties between the traders of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian-administered Kashmir.
Thursday’s meeting reviewed current practices, following which a joint statement was issued by the two sides.
Traders said they were expecting some sort of breakthrough in the expansion of trans-LoC trade and the introduction of incentives from both sides of Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate travel.
“New Delhi and Islamabad were expected to take concrete steps to strengthen trade, but the outcome of the meeting was extremely disappointing,” said Ershad Mahmood, an independent analyst and director of AJK-based NGO Centre for Peace Development and Reforms.
“In fact, they just reviewed the process; no tangible steps were taken to counter constraints such as hurdles in the free movement of traders, banking and communication,” added Mahmood.
A young scholar from AJK, Syed Waqas Ali Kausar said the joint statement was encouraging, but such dialogue should include all stakeholders in order to come up with ‘realistic and workable initiatives’.
“People were expecting clear-cut measures along with settlement of disputes regarding trade and travel,” said Kausar.
“Traders are seeking banking facilities, round the week trade, and acceptance of other demands put forward by the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” said Senior Vice President AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mubeen Khan. “However, no such steps were taken.”
Khan said more items should be added to the trade list after consultation with the joint chamber and regional chambers before the fourth anniversary of cross-LoC trade in October.
He, however, lauded the efforts of both governments and said the trade initiative would go a long way in establishing a peaceful environment in accordance with the wishes of the area’s inhabitants.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.
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