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Cross LoC trade hostage to petty-mindedness of officials

Trade has not taken off on the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir because of the "petty-mindedness of small officials", reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 17:01 IST
Arun Joshi

Trade has not taken off on the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir because of the "petty-mindedness of small officials".

It has baffled the authorities in Pakistan as to why "next to nothing" has come out of this issue despite President Musharraf having made liberal announcements for opening of the points at the LoC—that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri attributed the holding of the cross LoC trade between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir to "petty mindedness of some small officials".

Although a part of the reason was ascribed to the Mumbai blasts of July 11 and the statements made by the Indian side in the aftermath of that, Kasuri primarily blamed it on the "petty-mindedness of small officials", in an interview to a private news channel coinciding with the resumption of India-Pakistan foreign secretary level talks in New Delhi on Tuesday.

He wondered as to why the result should be "next to nothing" when President Musharraf in the aftermath of the horrendous earthquake had declared that five points on the LoC be opened so that the people could apply balm on the wounds of each other.

He was referring to the five points of Kaman post, Hajipeer, Teetwal in the Kashmir Valley, and Chakan Da Bagh and Tattapani in the Jammu region. While the buses are plying between Srinagar-Muzzafarabad road coursing through Kaman post, and Poonch-Rawlakote through Chakan Da Bagh, the goods laden trucks for trade between the two sides of the state have not yet rolled on.

Though the trade issue was on cards soon after the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad road was thrown open for civilian traffic for the first time after partition on April 7, 2005, no progress could be made because the Pakistani side is not clearing the names of the 75 Indian businessmen.

"We have submitted our list to Pakistan, but there is no response from their side," Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had stated it clearly.

The Indian side has cleared all the names that were submitted to it.

Traders on both sides of the LoC are keen to have trade with each other, but the bureaucratic bottleneck have withheld everything.

"We can supply cement and prefabricated sheets to them, steel at much cheaper rates than they get from Lahore or other places," Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Ram Sahai said. He was talking in terms of the construction material needed by PoK residents for the reconstruction of their homes–devastated by the October 8 earthquake of last year.

Kasuri acknowledged that: India and Pakistan have exchanged ideas on Jammu and Kashmir through "various sources" and some of the differences have been bridged while some differences continue to exist between the two nations on the most contentious issue between the two nations since partition.

What has been peripheral knowledge of the media and official and political circles on the back channel moves on Jammu and Kashmir was confirmed by Kasuri in his interview.

"I don't know the front or back channel, but I can tell you that some differences have been bridged. There are some differences that still exist."

He was happy that India and Pakistan on Kashmir have moved from the position of hostility to the peace process. "It is a progress, though it cannot be called  as friendly."

In the case of narrowing of differences on Jammu and Kashmir, Kasuri referred to the September 16 joint statement in the Cuban capital Havana, after a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the NAM summit.

"It read that useful ideas have been exchanged on Jammu and Kashmir. And efforts were on to increase convergencies and  decrease divergencies."