Cross-LoC traders seek increase in business

Cross-LoC traders seek increase in business
Business leaders from both sides of Jammu and Kashmir have demanded increase in tradable items besides opening communication and banking facilities to boost cross-LoC trade.

Sources told Deccan Herald that traders of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir resolved in a meeting held in Dubai last week to strengthen the cross-LoC trade, started as a confidence-building measure in 2008.

The meeting was organised by a European think tank. Traders from both sides also urged their respective governments to reopen Kargil-Skardu road, which was part of the once flourising Silk Route.

Sources said the traders demanded inclusion of cement besides some other items in the list of tradable articles.

“The traders pledged to pressurise both governments to expand the tradable items and introduce banking and communication facilities in order to give fillip to the trade,” they said.

Interestingly, while the rate of cement has touched Rs 400 per 50-kg bag on the Indian side of Kashmir, in PoK it is in the price band of Rs 170 to 250 per 50-kg bag.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mushtaq Wani, who attended the meeting, told reporters that business leaders from both sides welcomed the thaw in Indo-Pak relations and beginning of the dialogue process.

He said the traders raised demand for communication, banking facilities, customs, travel, multi-entry permits.

Absence of these facilities has been the main hindrance to a smooth trade since the beginning.

The state’s business community hopes to use the two routes for transit trade and as an alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only road link connecting Kashmir to the rest of the country.

The business community felt the uneasy politics between India and Pakistan didn’t allow things to go smoothly.

It was for the first time that top officials from India and Pakistan met traders of Jammu and Kashmir to discuss their problems.

Before attending the Dubai meeting, the traders from the state met PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, former general officer-in-command of 15 Corps Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, retired Marshal Kapil Tak and World Bank representative Dr Sanjay.

In the beginning, there were reportedly around 600 traders who had registered with the industries department to do business with their counterparts on the other side of Kashmir. The number of active traders has now come down to just 65.

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