Divided Kashmir to trade after six decades (Roundup)

October 20th, 2008 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Oct 20 (IANS) Trucks will roll on both sides of the line dividing Kashmir as India and Pakistan resume trade Tuesday in the region, six decades after they snapped commercial ties through the route following the 1948 war.The move to begin the trade across the Line of Control (LoC) - the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries - comes after a meeting between Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York last month.

The trade will start from two points on the LoC — Poonch-Rawlakote in Jammu and Srinagar-Muzaffarabad in Kashmir.

Vehicles will be allowed to cross the LoC for the first time since 1948, as the trucks are expected to drive inside the Pakistani and Indian territory and unload.

A bus service connecting the divided state was launched in 2005, as part of many confidence-building measures undertaken since India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004.

However, the bus service in the wake of procedural hassles has remained symbolic as only 9,000 passengers from the divided region have travelled across the LoC.

On Monday, traders in Jammu as well as the Kashmir Valley prepared for the historic move. Trucks from Srinagar - the summer capital - made their way to a trade facilitation centre near the LoC on the Indian side.

Fragrant apples, saffron and almonds were part of the goods in the trucks.

One truck was symbolically flagged off by Mobeen Shah, president of the valley’s industry lobby. Others started their journey to the Salamabad trade facilitation centre in Baramulla district from the towns of Shopian, Sopore and from the fruit market in Srinagar.

The inaugural trade goods list - comprising 21 items - across the LoC beginning Tuesday includes apples, walnuts, almonds, saffron, red-kidney beans, chillies, honey, spice cakes and woollen shawls.

Besides, Ladakh apricot and turmeric are also included in the trade list from the Indian side.

From Muzaffarabad in Pakistan administered Kashmir, rock salt, dates, Hunza apricot and spices as well as medicinal herbs, carpets and rugs, foam mattresses and cushions, wall hangings and the famous peshawari leather slippers will make their way in this Kashmir.

“In all, 15 small trucks would carry goods across the LoC from this side tomorrow (Tuesday) and unload their consignments at Chakoti in Pakistan-administered Kashmir,” said a member of the local traders’ association said.

Traders in Jammu, in a symbolic gesture, will send truck loads of fruits and vegetables as gift to the people in Pakistani Kashmir.

“It is just going to be symbolic opening (Tuesday). We will be sending about five truck loads of fruits and vegetables as gifts to people in Pakistan-administered Kashmir,” said Ram Sahai, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries - Jammu.

Sahai said the opening of this route would be a low key affair with only local traders present to send off the trucks.

Governor N.N. Vohra is likely to flag off the trucks from Uri in the Kashmir valley to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, sources said.

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