Goodwill cargo of fruits, vegetables kicks off Poonch-Rawlakote trade

October 21st, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Rangar (Jammu and Kashmir), Oct 21 (IANS) For the first time in six decades, Indian vehicles rolled across the Line of Control (LoC) to bridge the divide between the two Kashmirs as trade began Tuesday and India and Pakistan came a little closer. While Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra was in Salamabad Uri in north Kashmir to flag off the first convoy to Muzaffarabad, his adviser H.H. Tyabji did the honours here, about 250 km from the state’s winter capital Jammu, to kick off trade between Poonch and Rawlakote.

No political figure was allowed to inaugurate the opening of trade routes by the Election Commission in view of model code of conduct coming into play due to assembly polls being announced.

Three trucks carrying fruits and vegetables crossed the LoC to enter Pakistan administered Kashmir, to resume trade after commercial ties snapped through the route following the 1948 war. Though people began crossing the LoC in 2005, they could do so only on foot.

A total of 21 listed items, including carpets, apples, walnuts, almonds, black mushrooms and papier mache items , have been cleared for trade.

“We need to expand the list of items to be traded to make it more meaningful for Jammu side as the present list has items like fruits and handicrafts which are all from Kashmir valley,” Tyabji told reporters.

Pakistan would begin trade on the route Wednesday, officials said.

“We were asked by the Pakistani side to delay the opening of Poonch route as arrangements were not in place on their side, but we wanted it to start on this date as elections are going to keep state machinery busy,” Ram Sahai, president of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told IANS.

“Today, we are just sending fruits and vegetables as gifts for our brethren on the other side of the LoC,” he added.

The mood in Poonch was upbeat.

Aslam Hussain, 85, was nostalgic.

“This takes my memory to 1945 when we used to have free trade. The maize in Poonch was very popular in Rawlakote.”

Poonch-Rawlakote was the main trading route before partition of the country in 1947 and played a major role in the economy of the area.

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