Home Secretary to visit J&K ahead of Indo-Pak talks

NEW DELHI, May 14: Ahead of Indo-Pak Home Secretary- level talks later this month, Home Secretary R K Singh will visit Jammu and Kashmir this week to have a first-hand assessment of problems being faced by businessmen in cross-LoC trade.
The visit comes close on the heels of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah flagging the problems being faced by traders in cross-LoC at an internal security conference chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month.
While Omar had termed cross-border trade as a major confidence building measure between India and Pakistan, he had favoured end of barter practice and suggested opening of normal banking channels.
According to official sources, Singh, whose visit scheduled last month was postponed, will be travelling to Kashmir first on May 16.
He will visit Salamabad in Uri in North Kashmir, see the arrangements and talk to some of the trade unions in a bid to firm up the stand on modalities for establishing banking relations for businessmen.
India has been proposing to Pakistan for opening of banking channels to encourage more trade between the two parts of Kashmir.
On Omar’s plea to the Centre, the Home Secretary will also hold talks with the state authorities for having a telephone link between the two parts of Kashmir for encouraging trade relations which started in 2008, the sources said.
The Home Secretary will on May 17 visit Jammu region where he will get a first-hand account about trading at Chakan-da-Bagh in Poonch, the sources said.
The Chief Minister, in his speech at the Internal Security Conference last month, had said, “There is a need for restoration of telephonic links between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and putting in place a proper institutional arrangement by replacing the current barter system of trade, which will also address the security concerns.”
Omar had requested the Home Ministry to take up the matter with the ministries concerned so that trade can flourish in real terms.
The matter is likely to be raised at the proposed meeting of the Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan scheduled to be held in Islamabad next month. (AGENCIES)