India has expressed willingness to include fresh fruits in the list of commodities to be traded through the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. This will be conveyed to Pakistan in the upcoming meeting to be held on September 22 in New Delhi.
The decision to include Kashmiri fruits was taken at a meeting held by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Commerce Secretary G K Pillai on Tuesday night.
India was eager to get fresh fruits like apples, cherry enlisted "because this will help hundreds of fruit growers in Jammu and Kashmir".
Kashmir's horticulture sector is a Rs 2,600-crore industry with six lakh families associated with it, said Kashmir Fruit Growers Association (KFGA) president Ghulam Rasool Bhat.
He said the cross-LoC routes will not only open trade links with the Pakistani market but also surface links to the markets in South and Central Asia and Gulf.
Kashmiri fruits could not be traded as it has been on the 'negative list' in the SAARC charter. When India and Pakistan exchanged the list of commodities to be traded through the LoC last July, it did not include fresh fruits from J-K. The exclusion, however, had come as a surprise for J-K political and trade circles.
Union Water Resources Minister and Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir Saif-ud-Din Soz raised the issue with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Soz's spokesman said he too was of the opinion that "the cross-LoC trade will be meaningless unless Kashmir fruits were included".
With the list yet to be finalised, many traders have kept their fingers crossed. President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) said: "The whole confusion would be cleared once the trade delegation from across the LoC reaches here next week."
Officials of India and Pakistan will meet here on September 22 to discuss issues related to cross-LoC trade.
(With PTI inputs)