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June 26, 2019

Business, trade bodies of J&K urge to resume LoC-trade


June 26, 2019

LAHORE: Regional trade bodies, including the chambers of commerce working cross-LoC in Jammu and Kashmir have called for resuming intra-Kashmir trade without any delay.

The demand was raised at a meeting of traders and some independent entrepreneurs, who met for a “Jammu and Kashmir Cross-Line of Control Business Track II” in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from June 23 to 25.

The meeting was facilitated by Conciliation Resources as part of its support to the Cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) since 2009. The participants took a comprehensive view of the CBMs initiated by the governments of India and Pakistan since 2005.

They acknowledged the fact that various CBMs like trade and travel across LoC, in their limited scope, have contributed in trust building and enhancing shared understanding between regions and communities.

Participants were of the unanimous view that agreement on opening of the LoC for travel of divided families and further allowing it for trade was a demonstration of statesmanship of the leadership of India and Pakistan.

The participants, particularly, the cross-LoC traders said that responding to the CBMs agreed by the governments of India and Pakistan, they sustained the cross-LoC trade with emotional investment despite severe financial risks and procedural and operational difficulties usually associated with barter trade.

They also noted with concern and regret that after launch of trade on an archaic and ad hoc model in 2008, the respective governments did not do enough to put the mechanisms on modern lines which left it vulnerable to possible misuse.

They regretted that the trade had to be suspended by the government on the Indian side, with effect from April 18, 2019, for no fault of genuine traders.

The abrupt suspension of trade has resulted in avoidable opportunity loss. They also noted with deep regret that the peace building and economic potential of cross-LoC trade could not be realised to its optimum strength due to a variety of reasons.

The participants acknowledged the political sensitivities and difficulties in actualising the spirit behind softening of LoC, but they vehemently asserted that businesses could be viewed separately from politics as in the case of India-Pakistan International Trade, which has continued uninterrupt despite many bilateral setbacks.

The participants called upon the governments of India and Pakistan to take a comprehensive review of the modalities and technical mechanism to restore trade as early as possible.

The participating business chambers from both sides of the divide assured their respective governments of their full support and assistance in putting the trade on modern and transparent lines to the benefit of economic development and peace in J&K.

Participants also called upon the J&K Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JKJCCI), a consortium of regional chambers in Srinagar, Jammu and Mirpur, to closely work with the authorities and traders for early resumption of trade.

JKJCCI President Rakesh Gupta, Joint Presidents Sheikh Ashiq (President Kashmir Chamber) and Sohail Shujjah (Mirpur) reiterated their commitment to liaise between government authorities, traders and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that real intention behind this unique CBM was not lost.

Participation of women entrepreneurs from both sides of the LoC was one of the key highlights of the Tashkent meeting.

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