A year has passed since trucks carrying goods from one part of Kashmir to the other crossed the Line of Control (LoC) amid much fanfare and political sloganeering.
But the initial enthusiasm has withered.
“The trade has been just a barter of goods, not trade in actual sense,” Nazir Ahmad Dar, president, Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Hindustan Times.
From October 2008, goods that crossed the Kaman Bridge on the LoC, which divides India’s Kashmir from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, were worth Rs 50-60 crore — far less than the potential of “hundreds of crores” projection a year ago, according to Dar.
Kashmir’s fruit growers hoped the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trade link would expand their market. The call of fruit growers to march towards the LoC after the economic blockade of Kashmir valley during the Amaranth land agitation last year had pushed the political leadership into opening the LoC for trade.
But traders are a dejected lot today. “We sent fruits worth Rs 14 lakh in the first month and received goods worth only Rs 24,000 in return,” said Haji Ahmad, president of Sopore’s fruit market. He said trade was not possible without adequate banking facilities, communication and infrastructure.
“They (government officials) are not even allowing traders to meet once a week or a month,” said Mohammad Tariq Khan, vice-president of Salamabad trade union.
Admitting the government had not yet decided on the use of currency, Farooq Ahmad, director, state department of commerce and industries, said, “The trade has been a big confidence building measure between India and Pakistan, but (the November 26, 2008) Mumbai attacks slowed down the pace of things.”
Jammu and Kashmir’s minister of commerce and industries Surjit Salathia, however, said the government had acquired over nine hectares of land to construct an advanced trading centre in Salamabad.