Ahead of HS talks, traders meet on LoC

Joint LoC Federation floated

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 28: In a major initiative to boost cross-LoC trade ahead of Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan on May 24 and 25, the traders of both routes—Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad today formed 44 members Joint LoC Trade Federation comprising 22 members from each side to prepare their charter of demands and submit them to their respective Home Secretaries prior to the meeting.
The Joint LoC Trade Federation was formed in a meeting of the traders from both parts of divided State held at Chakan-Da-Bagh, the line dividing Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) during the day today.
The Federation of Poonch-Rawlakote traders and Uri-Muzaffarabad traders will have 22 members each, 11 each from four sides i.e. Poonch (including other parts of Jammu), Rawlakote, Uri (including other parts of Kashmir) and Muzaffarabad.
Today’s meeting at cross-LoC trade point of Chakan-Da-Bagh was attended by 121 traders including 51 from this part of divided State and 71 from other side of LoC. Pawan Anand, president, Karan Singh, general secretary and Rajiv Tandon, convenor led the team from this side while Choudhary Mohammad Latief, president and Akhter Hussain, general secretary, represented trader fraternity of Rawlakote.
Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Trade Facilitation Officer (TFO), Poonch and MA Qureshi, DySP Poonch joined traders of this side while Akhter Hussain, TFO Hajeera (Rawlakote) and Custodian Hajeera represented PoK.
Sources said the traders from both sides decided that it was largely becoming impossible for them to run the trade on just red chilly or few other items. They decided to take up the issue with trade facilitation authorities that the Governments of India and Pakistan should prepare a negative list of trade and allow traders to import-export all other items instead of confining the cross-LoC business to just 21 items.
“Even from within 21 items approved for trade on two cross-LoC routes, authorities from both sides continued to impose restrictions on various items on one pretext or the other’’, the traders lamented.
It may be mentioned here that Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan were meeting in Islamabad on May 24 and 25 to take a host of issues including measures to boost cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir. Home Secretary R K Singh was earlier scheduled to visit Chakan-Da-Bagh and Uri few days back but the visit was postponed. Sources said the visit could take place in second week of May as Mr Singh wanted to acquaint himself with problems of the traders to take them up with his counterpart in Islamabad meeting.
Sources said the traders of two parts of divided State also resolved their issues pertaining to account disputes as trade was conducted on barter system.
The traders from both sides have been insisting on switching over to use of currency instead of barter system and communication link (ISD link) from Jammu and Kashmir to PoK so that the businessmen could talk to each other and discuss the items to be imported and exported. They were also demanding trade visa to facilitate visit of the traders to see the items for import-export, sources said.