New Delhi: India and Pakistan Tuesday held a meeting on cross-Line of Control trade and travel during which ways and mechanisms for increasing people-to-people contact, increasing the trade volume and improving infrastructure at trading points were discussed.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of tension along the LoC after a driver from Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK) was arrested for allegedly smuggling brown sugar worth Rs 100 crore on January 17 at Salamabad in Uri in North Kashmir.
The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary in External Affairs Ministry R Tandon while the Pakistani side was represented by Director General (South Asia) Riffat Masood.
There was a ‘brief’ discussion on the arrest of the PaK driver during which the Indian side gave a status of the case and the Pakistani side finished the matter by expressing the hope that the probe would be completed soon, official sources said.
The two sides discussed Standard operating Procedures (SoP) at trading points—Uri-Muzaffarabad in Kashmir and Poonch-Rawalakote in Jammu—and it was favoured that all stakeholders should be present at the time of loading and unloading of trucks, the sources said.
During the meeting, India again raised the issue of banking facility at these trading points, to which the Pakistani side said it was still examining the proposal, they said.
Under the present agreement, two sides trade only by exchange of goods with no money changing hands.
India has been demanding routing the cross-LoC trade through banking channels rather than using the barter system as is the case at present because it is reasoned that this would give a fillip to the trade between the two parts of Kashmir.
During the luncheon meeting, it was also favoured that scanning mechanism should be involved at trading points to minimise inconvenience to traders.
The Indian side made an attempt to work out a formula with Pakistan for increasing the volume of trade by including some more items in the import and export list.
The two sides trade 21 items among which are carpets, rugs, honey, papier mache, saffron, medicinal herbs from Uri to Chakotti (PaK), precious stones, Peshawari leather chappals, foam mattresses, shawls and stoles and black mushrooms from PaK to Jammu and Kashmir.
There have been demands from various trading federations from the state for expanding the list.
Ahead of the meeting, a delegation of Kashmiri traders had met the Pakistani delegation on Monday during which they requested for inclusion of product ranges and also include cement, electric items and hardware items in this, sources said.
From 2008 till January, goods worth Rs 345 crore were exported while Rs 600 crore worth of items were imported from Chakan Da Bagh side in Jammu region.
In Kashmir’s Uri-Muzaffarabad, goods worth Rs 1,033 crore have been exported from Srinagar whereas the import figures stood at Rs 1,680 crore during this period.—PTI