ISLAMABAD: Participants of a discussion on Tuesday called for increased trade and commerce across the Line of Control.
They said such a step can minimise the tension between Pakistan and India and enhance interdependence between the two countries.
They were speaking at the launch of discussion papers on Jammu and Kashmir trade across the Line of Control (LoC), organised by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency(PILDAT).
“Both countries should promote trade and other means of people-to-people contacts across the LoC to pave way for resolving the Kashmir issue,” said Shahzada Mohiuddin, MNA and chairperson of National Assembly Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.
He said that the initiative of both governments to open the LoC for trade will help promote interaction between the two sides.
He was of the opinion that people of both sides of LoC are quite happy after the start of cross-border trade and it has provided an opportunity to the people on both sides of the border to meet each other.
Renowned Defence Analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi said that the countries were making a practical effort to resolve the conflict.
“If trade and commerce increase, tension and conflict can be minimised. This creates stakeholders on both sides and allows greater human interaction on the both sides of the LoC,” he said.
Authors of the papers, Ayesha Saeed and Arif Kamal, were of the opinion that intra-Kashmir trade is not just another confidence building measure. It is, in fact, the first-ever step that directly benefits the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Interdependence rather than interconnection could benefit people across the LoC.
However, President Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zulfiqar Abbasi disagreed. He pointed out the hindrances and problems being faced by the traders. The restriction of trade to 21 times and two days a week was not sufficient, he said, adding that this was “too little” to revive the economy of the area. He said multi-entry trade pass of at least two year should be issued to traders on both sides.
Former Federal Secretary Interior and Commerce Tasneem Noorani echoed Abbasi’s opinion. He said intra-Kashmir trade has insignificant economical benefits because it is very restricted. He believed that “allowing trade and then restricting everything” is of no use to Pakistan and India and both sides must re-visit their policies on cross-border trade.
Jonathan Cohen, Director Programmes, Conciliation Resource, United Kingdom, said that the main objective behind the discussion papers was to give authors from either side an opportunity to express their feelings on Intra-Kashmir trade.
In many conflicts, economics has played an important role in achieving conflict resolution. He said that we cannot separate the economic and
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2011.