9 YEARS OF CROSS LOC BARTER: 'Successive state governments failed to turn CBM into full-fledged trade'

Traders say double taxation, trust deficit, ‘witch-hunt’, lack of banking facilities undermining the intra-Kashmir initiative

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 21 2017 11:41PM | Updated Date: Oct 21 2017 11:41PM
9 YEARS OF CROSS LOC BARTER: 'Successive state governments failed to turn CBM into full-fledged trade'GK Photo

Saying that cross-LoC trade has failed to evolve in a full-fledged trade between two divided parts of Kashmir and continues to remain only a confidence building measure (CBM), traders in a seminar Saturday here blamed successive state governments in Jammu and Kashmir for being unable to do justice with it, despite keeping it on top of their election manifestos.  

The seminar was held by J&K Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JKJCCI) at a city-based hotel to mark the 9th anniversary of cross-LoC trade on October 21.   

While highlighting issues related to Cross LoC trade, former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mubeen Shah said instead of calling cross-LoC trade as ‘international trade’ there has to be an alternative, as calling it ‘international trade’ will mean “being party to considering LoC as international border,”. Shah who has been instrumental in formation of JKJCCI and was its president previously said India does trade with Nepal in its own currency and asked, “Why can’t be the same be replicated with Pakistan.”

“I don’t consider it as international trade but only as inter-state trade. I remember that during the first meeting with a delegation from the other side, we were told that the trade be done in Dollars but we refused because we were not to become a party to consider LoC as an international border,” Shah said.   

Shah said the transit trade should be done in a way that “anything available in that side of Kashmir should be available here and vice versa”.  

Hilal Turkie, president of Salamabad Traders Association said cross-LoC trade has helped to create employment for a number of people. About Rs 7 crore have been paid for 92,000 jobs days at Uri while Rs 80 crore have been grossed by the transport sector for supply of goods. Turkie said Rs 2529 crore worth exports have taken place while Rs 2236 crore worth imports have been witnessed during last 9 years of cross-LoC trade. However, Turkie said LoC traders being targeted for “under –invoicing is highly unfortunate”.

“We have demanded that trade should be extended for six days a week. Today fingers are being pointed at LoC traders for all the wrong reasons. But  fault  lies with the system and the state government. We have asked for installation of a digital system that could monitor trade activity as we are in favour of regulation of this trade. Also asking for Rs 5 lakh security deposit from traders to be part of LoC trade is an illogical proposition,” Turkie said.  

While highlighting various lacunas, chairman Cross LOC traders union, Asif Lone said LoC traders have become a “victim of CBMs” as they are always at the receiving end. “While Omar Abdullah during his tenure as chief minister exempted sales tax but now present state finance minister has outrightly rejected such as exemption. Instead of putting the entire onus on traders, it is the responsibility of the agencies scanning the goods to keep a check on illegal goods supply,” Lone said.

Rakesh Gupta, President of JKJCCI stressed on improving the trade infrastructure as well as implementing tourism exchange programs by the government.

Youth President, PDP and secretary sports council Waheed ur Rehman Parra said there are practical problems in this trade which needs to be overcome. “Borders have hostile atmosphere so it affects trade.  The government will work on enhancing it by deploying advance technology,” he said. 

The speakers also urged the state as well as central government to restart the trade through the Poonch border which is closed for trade since July this year.

Muhammad Ashraf Mir, president of FCIK said, “Using label of extremists and narcotic dealers for cross-LOC traders was unfortunate.” Mir said products traded from Wagah border should be also allowed to be traded from LoC. Tanvir Sadiq, Political secretary National conference said instead of falling under the ambit of union home ministry, cross-LoC trade should be regulated by Commerce Ministry. “The security systems under which this trade has been kept must be removed,” Sadiq added.

Bilal Ahmad, Director Industries and Commerce highlighted various efforts being made by the government to make cross-LoC trade more efficient.