“No Hawala transactionS can take place through Cross LoC trade”
Zulfiqar Abbasi, Former President of Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chambers of Commerce (JKJCCI) shares his views on cross LoC Trade with GK Correspondent Mukeet Akmali on the occasion of a conference organized by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) at SKICC, Srinagar.
How was your visit to this part of Kashmir?
It is always breathtaking to visit Kashmir. It feels like you’re at home away from home. This place is similar to Muzaffarad; weather, atmosphere and people, who are very affectionate to us. It is my third visit to Kashmir. But unfortunately one thing pinches me, that despite being Kashmiris, we have to travel via Wagah border to reach here. The authorities on both sides don’t allow us to travel via Muzaffarabad – Srinagar road; this is very unfortunate.
I have come here to participate in the dialogue process initiated by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation and I am thankful to them that they have invited not only me but also the traders from Pakistan Administered Kashmir to know their opinion and how to progess in the Cross LoC trade.
When we talk of LoC trade, traders here call it a” blind trade” and allege that the number of “agreed” tradable items between India and Pakistan have reduced to just a few. Your opinion?
Well, I totally agree with the traders here. This trade has been reduced to only a few tradable items which is very sad. We had high expectations from this trade as it has a potential to generate employment avenues in both parts. But unfortunately our governments are not sincere in promoting trade. Initially it was agreed that 21 items will be traded via intra Kashmir routes. But after four years the number of tradable items has been reduced to mere 5 items and as a result traders are incurring heavy losses and losing their interest in this trade. Besides there are no banking facilities, no communication links, traders cannot communicate with each other. It is a kind of a blind trade where buyer does not know who is his seller. This trade was started as one of the major Confidence Building Measures by both India and Pakistan but negligence (or some other unseen motives) has critically damaged it.
I believe if India and Pakistan will for liberalization, Intra Kashmir trade will be the casualty. Most of the trade will be done through other transit points between two countries and it will lessen the importance of cross LoC Trade. So we need to gear up and prepare ourselves in such a way that the importance of Intra- Kashmir trade is not diluted.
You are the former president of JKJCCI, what role has it played in helping the traders associated with Cross LoC trade.
Jammu and Kashmir, Joint Chamber of Commerce was formed by the efforts of traders from both parts of Kashmir. JKJCCI has tried to address the problems of cross LoC traders. Traders from both parts thought that they need to form a joint platform where their voices and concerns were heard.
Traders from both sides are meeting here because of the efforts of JKJCCI. Traders are always in touch with each other via JKJCCI. But it is very unfortunate that governments of India and Pakistan are not allowing us to hold meetings. We had to earlier fix meetings of JKJCCI in countries like Sri Lanka and Turkey.
It hurts you; it was the unanimous decision of both governments of India and Pakistan to start the Cross LoC trade, but why are they harassing traders and not allowing them to meet in their own places. Previously I was not allowed to come here, I want to ask our governments, why Kashmiris are given step motherly treatment. When traders from other parts of India and Pakistan can easily travel to and fro, why not Kashmiris. Governments of both India and Pakistan have to give answers to these questions.
How do you think this Cross LoC trade can be expanded so that it can improve the economic condition of both sides?
First thing that needs to be done is to increase the tradable items, which are presently 21 items. Traders from both parts of LoC are demanding that “negative list” should be made which will include only few items that will be barred from trading and rest of the items can be easily traded. Also there is immediate need of installing banking facilities for the traders, so that volume of trade can be known to all and also traders will come to know about their earnings through this trade.
There are some apprehensions raised from Indian side that Hawala transactions can take place through cross LoC trade, what is your take on that?
These are mere assumptions, how can Hawala transactions take place when there is no exchange of money via cross LoC trade.
Tell us something about the items from this part that are in good demand in AJK.
Construction items, like iron, are very much in demand. If governments of both the countries agree on including construction items in tradable list it would be good for both parts. From our side we have good production of cement and we can export it to this part.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 16 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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