Omar, Mufti hail thaw

Separatists, Traders Cautious


Srinagar/Jammu, July 27: The announcement of cross-LoC trade and travel Confidence Building Measures by India and Pakistan has evoked mixed reaction in Jammu and Kashmir. While mainstream camp including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah hailed the initiative, the separatists and business fraternity reacted cautiously.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the CBMs announced by India and Pakistan after talks between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.
Omar described the fresh initiatives as a “good step” on micro-blogging website Twitter.
Welcoming the outcome of the Indo-Pak Foreign Ministers talks in New Delhi, Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has said the measures announced are another step towards making the state an Economic Free Zone (EFC).
Mufti said the measures announced in the joint statement indicate a significant progress in carrying forward the peace process and building of trust between the two neighbors that is important for finding a lasting solution to Jammu and Kashmir. He said the vision of a tension-free South Asia will receive a boost with the concrete measures announced especially with regard to the cross LOC travel and trade.
Terming the announcement of simplifying travel procedures and augmenting trade as ‘superficial measure,’ chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that real CBM would be addressing the core issue of Kashmir.
“These measures don’t have any importance for Kashmiris as far as confidence building process is concerned. If New Delhi wants to restore confidence, then they should withdraw forces, revoke draconian laws, release political detainees and punish the forces involved in the killing of 120 Kashmiri youth during the last year’s unrest,” Geelani said. “After initiation of these steps, dialogue should be held with pro-freedom leadership to resolve the Kashmir issue in its historical perspective”.
Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: “Although we welcome cross LoC travel and trade CBMs, but demilitarization, repeal of black laws and curbing human rights violations should be given preference. Kashmiris would only feel change in the ground situation if these initiatives are taken.”
Welcoming the engagement of India and Pakistan, he said, “If they want to make dialogue result-oriented, then they should chart out mechanism how to involve the Kashmiris in the process.”
“There is huge gap in future engagements between both the countries and it seems as if they are delaying the process. It should be made time-bound and why cannot Prime Ministers of both the countries meet twice or thrice in a year for resolving Kashmir issue,” he said.
Welcoming the measures, State Congress president Prof. Saifuddin Soz said many more such measures are in the offing.
“These initiatives are the need of hour and when I returned from Pakistan one and a half month ago, I made strong case for these CBMs,” Soz said, adding that civil society of Pakistan also underscored the need for taking measures for strengthening relationship with India.
The announcement of CBMs regarding cross LoC trade has evoked mixed response from the business fraternity of the Valley.
“Since the inception of trade, we had made demands for sorting out difficulties and riders regarding tradable items, communication, infrastructure and banking mechanism. This time we were hopeful that these issues would be addressed for enhancing trade, but they have not been met,” said Shakeel Qalandar, former President of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK).
Welcoming the enhancement of trading days and holding of meetings between chamber of commerce and trade of both sides, Qalandar said the meetings between traders also need to be facilitated by issuing them multiple entry permits for a specified period.
Echoing the same views, Nazir Ahmad Dar, President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “We have been left disappointed as our foremost concern of providing banking facility has not been addressed. Without this facility, people associated with the trade are facing lot of difficulties.”
He however welcomed the augmenting of trading days from two to four per week and holding of meetings between trade and commerce bodies of both the sides.
Hilal Ahmad Turkey, general secretary of Chamber of LoC trade JK, said that there is nothing for traders involved in the trade in these CBMs.
“Our concern of banking has not been addressed. The enhancement of the days will not prove of any help due to restricted list of 21 trading items. The increase in days was just done for security purposes as they found it difficult to search the vehicles during two days of trade earlier,” he said.

The business community of Jammu has urged the two countries to end the barter system in cross-LoC trade, a matter that has become cause of constant friction between the traders of the two parts of divided Jammu and Kashmir.
The trade between the two sides is conducted on barter system as there is no agreement on the currency to be used.
Business community urged the two countries to take decision to include manufactured and agriculture items in the list of tradable articles to facilitate full fledged business between the two divided parts of the state.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Jammu, the apex body of businessmen and industrialists in Jammu region, has said that without financial transitions, many people are not willing to send their goods across the border as the currency value of Indian and Pakistani rupee is different and in barter transitions they face lot of problems.
“We welcome the announcement, but greater stress should be laid on establishing a banking system under which the financial transitions could be made. The value of rupee in both the countries is different, which creates confusion for us”, said Y.V Sharma, president CCIJ.
The Jammu industrialists, expressing optimism about the announcement said that there should be increase in the list of articles to be traded across LoC. They want that all goods manufactured in Jammu and Kashmir should be allowed to cross the border plus travel and multiple passes be given to the business community dealing in the trade.
“We don’t know with whom we are dealing with in absence of direct contact, there are many negative points. At least it will allow us to move there. Industrial goods should be also included in list”, said Anil Suri, a leading industrialist of the state.
However, the president J&K Chamber of LoC Trade, Pawan Anand, demanded that the items in the LoC trade list which have not been traded so far shall be removed and the fresh list of 35 items submitted by the chamber be considered for inclusion. “There is need to revamp the list of things being traded at the moment and new list submitted by us be considered. We also want end of the barter system”.
It is pertinent to mention here that since its start in 2008, the cross LoC trade never had a smooth run and recently in March trade was suspended following leveling of VAT on the items being sent to Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK).
All Parties Migration Coordination Committee (APMCC) chairman Vinod Pandit termed the announcement of cross-LoC religious pilgrimage as biggest ever CBM announced so far.
“The Sharada Peeth Temple in Pakistan administered Kashmir should be renovated by both countries and then thrown open so that Pandits from this part of Kashmir would visit there,” he said.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 27 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 27 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 28 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST

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