Trucks carrying local produce crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) amid cheers from both sides, as India and Pakistan began cross-border trade on Tuesday — for the first time in the six decades of Independence.
On the Pakistani side, schoolchildren and politicians lined up the road, while Prime Minister of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Sardar Rafiq called it “the mending of broken ties”. Rafiq at the border check-post of Chakoti said the sense of depravation among the Kashmiris would now end. "People will come closer. This augers well for the future," he said as schoolchildren ironically shouted slogans like “Kashmir banega Pakistan (Kashmir will become Pakistan).”
But the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami party Qazi Husain Ahmad warned that the Pakistan government had entered into a "clandestine deal with India to weaken the struggle of self-determination for the Kashmiris".
Husain said the trade ties would "destabilize the movement to win freedom for those in Indian Kashmir." Other quarters also had reservations.
Business leaders said the opportunity should not be restricted to photo opportunities only. "We need to ensure that there is meaningful trade from both sides,” said Amin Hashwani, head of the Pakistan-India Business Forum. He said for trade to continue, the list of items needed to be expanded. Sanaullah Abbasi of the AJK Chamber of Commerce said Pakistani should also be “given equal footing”.
However, Muhammad Aslam, a local resident of the Chakoti area, expressed his fear that the LoC “could well become the international border”. He said such a move “would not go down well with the people of Kashmir”.