India, Pakistan finalise modalities for cross-LoC trade

September 22nd, 2008 - 7:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) India and Pakistan Monday finalised the modalities for starting trade across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir.This was decided at a day-long meeting of the joint working group on cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures here, after which a joint press statement was issued.

While the Indian delegation was led by the external affairs ministry’s Joint Secretary T.C.A. Raghavan, the Pakistan side was headed by the foreign affairs ministry’s Additional Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary.

“The modalities of cross-LoC trade were finalised,” said the joint press release, adding that the meeting had been “cordial”.

The modalities relate to trade on two routes, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route and the Poonch-Rawlakot route, while a third one, the Kargil-Skardu route, is still under negotiation.

While the idea of cross-LoC trade had been first mooted in 2005, the practical steps required to put it into fruition had not been agreed upon so far, with Indian officials contending that Pakistan was stalling the move.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon expressed this disappointment Friday, when he regretted Pakistan’s dilly-dallying over reciprocating India’s gesture of hosting businessmen from the Indian side of Kashmir.

A day later, President Asif Ali Zardari in his speech to parliament indicated the new Pakistani regime’s readiness to start cross-border trade. “As a new initiative, we will start a cross-LoC trade as a pioneering CBM in Kashmir,” he said Saturday.

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