Officials debate status of apple in trans-LoC trade
15 October 2006
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Should Kashmiri apples be on the positive or negative list of items for trade between the two parts of Kashmir? As India and Pakistan gear up to open trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir (PoK), a serious discussion on this issue took place in the External Affairs Ministry recently, said officials. Officials from the Commerce and Industries Ministry raised their eyebrows while scrutinizing the list of items for trade between Kashmir and PoK when they spotted apples on it. 'Apples are on the negative list of trade between the South Asian Free Trade Association (SAFTA) countries,' commented an official from the Commerce Ministry, much to the amusement of others present at the meeting as apples are the mainstay of Kashmir's economy. According to SAFTA rules, certain items including apples are on the negative list of items for trade between India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives. However, after an argument by some officials from Jammu and Kashmir, the apple found its way into the list that was handed over to Pakistan recently as the issue could be taken up at the meeting of Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan likely to be held at New Delhi on November 10. Besides apples, India submitted a list that includes carpets, embroidery items, papier mache items, shawls, cricket bats, furniture, dry fruits, floriculture, tinned foods and juices, leather products, medicinal plants, copper and silver items, basmati rice and mushrooms. India is awaiting the clearance of the list by Pakistan. Trade between the two parts of Kashmir was scheduled to open earlier this year but had to be shelved because of some logistical problems and poor response from the Pakistan side. Pakistan did not submit the list of business delegates from PoK who would hold discussions with their counterparts from Jammu and Kashmir to work out modalities for trade. India had submitted a list of over 70 tradesmen to Pakistan authorities nine months ago but no clearance had been received so far, officials said. Pakistan has, meanwhile, submitted a list of items for trade across the Line of Control that includes spices, apples, walnuts, rice, namdas, furniture, marble, onion, medicinal herbs and pine-nuts. The trade issue will come up during the Foreign Secretaries' meet, which is likely to be followed by a meeting of representatives of Chambers of Commerce from Jammu and Kashmir and PoK. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has already acquired nearly three hectares for building a truck terminal, customs and immigration facilities at Salamabad near the LoC, where the trade is proposed to be started.