India, Pak to discuss measures to increase border trade across LoC

India, Pak to discuss measures to increase border trade across LoC

Army personnel pay tributes to the martyrs of Kargil War at Umbala Top in front of “Tiger Hill”  in Drass sector on Monday. pti

The two countries are also likely to discuss means to provide banking facilities to the cross-LoC traders, in addition to proposals to increase the frequency of a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and to launch a new service between Kargil and Skardu.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir will meet on Tuesday to review and shortlist the proposed cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures. The CBMs are likely to be finalized and announced by the External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday.
“This (Foreign Minister level talks) is going to be a full spectrum dialogue and both nations are expected to talk on wide range issues.” said Bashir, who crossed over to India through Attari-Wagah border on Monday. “We had good engagement process for the last five six months and we hope that this will be productive and lead to a good meeting of the two foreign ministers,” he said.

Khar, the first woman to be the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, is set to arrive on Tuesday. She is likely to meet All Party Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farrooq, veteran leader of hard-line faction of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatist leaders from Kashmir soon after her arrival in New Delhi. “Both the nations before this have had Home Secretary level talks and Kashmir has been the part of the talks. And in this Foreign Minister Level meeting too, Kashmir issue will be on the agenda,” said Bashir.

Sources in New Delhi said that India would continue to harp on its core concerns on terrorism emanating from Pakistan. “The trial of the seven Lashkar-e-Tayyiba operatives, who were arrested by Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency for plotting the 26/11, has been going on at a glacial pace over the past two and a half years. We will definitely ask Pakistan to expedite the trial at the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi,” said an official. Sources said that raising the number of trading points across border and increasing the number of trading days topped the list of the new CBMs, which India and Pak had already agreed. Now, cross-LoC trade is allowed between Muzaffarabad-Uri and Poonch-Rawalakot. India, however, proposed three additional trading routes, Nauseri-Tithwal, Hajipur-Uri and Tattapani-Mendhar.

Pak is believed to have in principle agreed to raise the number of trading routes, although the formalities are yet to be worked out.

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