Kashmir cross border trade brings back fond memories

October 21st, 2008 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Rangar (Poonch), Oct 21 (IANS) Walking stick in hand, a grey-bearded Amar Singh Josh gazed at the mountains on the Pakistan side, recalling the days more than six decades ago when he would visit his father’s shop in Rawlakote, now in Pakistani Kashmir, taking along ponies carrying a variety of foodstuff to sell there. His eyes misted in joy Tuesday at the re-opening of the trade route linking the two Kashmirs once again.The opening of the Poonch-Rawlakote trade route has taken Josh, now a bespectacled 70 year old, down memory lane to the happy relations between the two towns of Poonch and Rawlakote “before India’s partition”.

“I vividly remember that my father had a shop in the main Rawlakote bazaar. We used to take maize, rice and rajmah (kidney beans) from Poonch (still famous for these things) to sell in our shop there,” Josh, a retired school headmaster, told IANS.

“Rawlakote had a good market for these things as they were not produced locally. We had three ponies and would load these goods from Poonch and take them to Rawlakote. It was a 45 km bridle path and would take us about five-six hours to cover.”

“It is great to see the Tata mobile load carriers take the fruits and vegetables for people of Rawlakote,” he said. The trucks “will reach Tetrinot (Trade centre on Pakistani side 2 km from Line of Control) in just a few minutes”.

Josh had come as a child many times on this road along with his father on business trips. “Most enjoyable was when my friend Ayub Khan accompanied me and we really had fun.”

He remembers Ayub with a smile on his face, “We communicate regularly through mail. He retired as colonel in the Pakistani Army. It is my heart’s desire to meet him before I die.”

“Rawlakote was famous for pears and apricots,” he reminisced, which “we used to bring here to Poonch.” Trade in those times used to be both in cash and kind.

For Josh, the reopening of the trade route was a revival of old times when there were no dividing lines. “It is great to witness the start of cross-LoC trade today that dilutes the boundaries for the benefit of all, in an atmosphere of brotherhood.”

“It was the biggest tragedy that India and Pakistan got divided, and many countries have taken advantage of this divide,” he says with deep regret.

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.

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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