Pakistan and India principally agreed on Thursday to expand trade volume between the traders on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) to strengthen the already existing trade and social bonds between the two countries.
The decision was taken in a meeting of Pakistan-India joint working group held to discuss cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in Islamabad.
An official statement released by the foreign office without giving much details of the meeting said, “The meeting of Indo-Pak working groups was held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.”
The statement read that the two sides reviewed the progress since the last meeting of the joint working group and discussed measures that would help in resolving issues pertaining to trade, travelling and visits from both sides across LoC and friendly exchange of the delegations from different walks of life.
For the talks, Pakistani delegation was headed by Zehra Akbari, Director General (South Asia) Ministry of Foreign Affairs while the Indian side was led by Y K Sinha, Joint Secretary (PAI) Ministry of External Affairs.
According to the experts in Islamabad, Cross-LoC trade is facing immense difficulties due to many reasons mainly, visa procedures and lack of proper communication facilities between the two sides. They opined that the desired results of the negotiations would not be achieved by India and Pakistan without making the said CBMs more effective and reachable.
Welcoming the decisions on expansion in trade between India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s foreign office officials said, efforts for an unwavering environment of peace and stability through sustained dialogue and bilateral visits not only on state level but also civil society, media, judiciary and on other levels are required.
Former Pakistani envoy Asif Izdi said, “visit of Indian Premier Manmohan Singh to Pakistan and resumption of cricket diplomacy would help in enhancing stability in the bilateral dialogue, and would also expedite progress on stumbling issues between the two.”
Talking about disputes that are getting much prolonged between the two countries, former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad declared the Jammu and Kashmir the only bone of contention and stressed that it requires the implementation of existing CBMs in the undecided territory in letter and spirit, and should be expanded further.
Commenting on water specific disputes, other experts in the capital suggested that both India and Pakistan should continue to work within the outline of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and recommended more meetings between the Indus Water Commissioners than the one obligatory meeting once in a year. Declaring media imperative for the normalisation of ties between Pakistan and India experts suggested that both the governments should use media as a vital tool to get the relationship back on track as it could prove itself as an impartial and well-informed bridge between the two.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.