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March 6, 2019

Barter trade resumes at Kashmir border


March 6, 2019

OCCUPIED SRINAGAR: India and Pakistan on Tuesday resumed barter trade at a border crossing in Kashmir on Tuesday, Reuters, quoting an Indian official, reported.

Trade across the border, known as the Line of Control (LoC), was part-suspended after repeated mortar and small arms fire at Uri, a border town where the exchange of goods takes place.

But on Tuesday the route re-opened after firing in the region eased, said Riyaz Ahmad Malik, an official in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

Thirty-five trucks left for Chakothi on the Pakistani side of the border with a similar number moving in the opposite direction, he said.

Trade across the LoC operates on a barter system, where no money is exchanged.

The hostilities between the two neighbors, however, ensure that there are no banking facilities to turn the barter trade, which started in October 2008, into a regular currency trade.

In 2008, India and Pakistan had taken the step of running trucks on routes that connect the two parts of Kashmir, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot roads. The opening to trade was seen as the biggest confidence-building measure since the two countries fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947.

The decision to start trade across the LoC was taken in the follow-up of a meeting between the Indian prime minister and the president of Pakistan in April 2005.

"This trade is heavily dependent on the trust factor," said Pawan Anand, president of a local trading association in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"We neither meet traders of Pakistan nor can check the quality of the imported goods until they reach us."

Ashfaq Ahmad, a trader in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, said that he quotes rates on WhatsApp with his Pakistani counterpart.

"I send cumin and chilli seeds to Pakistan and in return order prayer mats and cloth," he said. "If there is any difference, it is adjusted in the next consignment. It is all trust-based trade but it is working.”

Indian traders export cumin, chilli pepper, cloth, cardamom, bananas, pomegranate, grapes and almonds. Prayer mats, carpets, cloth, oranges, mangos and herbs return from the Pakistani side.

Currently, only 21 items have been approved for trade between the two parts of Kashmir.

According to various estimates, commodities worth nearly $220 million were exported to Pakistan on the Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes by Indian traders in 2015/2016. While Pakistan traders exported 190 million worth of commodities during the same period.

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