Azad for opening up more cross-border routes
5 January 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has urged Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss opening of more cross-border points when he visits Pakistan next week, an official spokesperson said here Friday. Azad made this plea when he met Mukherjee in New Delhi Thursday and added that this would boost Kashmir-specific confidence building measures (CBMs) with Pakistan.Issues related to Jammu and Kashmir are likely to come up during Mukherjee's discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri.'During the deliberations, focus was on opening up additional trans-India-Pakistan border passenger travel routes, including Kargil-Skardu, Jammu-Sialkot and Jhanger-Mirpur (Nowshera),' the spokesperson said.At present, two routes - Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote - are functional. But the frequency of travel on these routes is once a fortnight.Less than 1,000 people have crossed over to either side of the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, since the routes were opened.Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad road was opened April 7, 2005, and Poonch-Rawlakote June 20, 2006.'Azad also reiterated the need for the early start of trans-LoC trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route, describing it as a major economic step and important CBM,' the official said. The chief minister also discussed the long-pending visit of a team from Jammu and Kashmir Chambers of Commerce and Industries to Pakistan, and pilgrim tourism to revered shrines of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs in Pakistan administered Kashmir.Trade through the cross-LoC route has been hanging fire for the past eight months. Pakistan has not cleared the list of businessmen from Jammu and Kashmir for their visit to Pakistan- administered Kashmir. India, however, has cleared the names of nearly 100 Pakistani businessmen.The Pakistani foreign minister had in November attributed the delay to the 'petty-mindedness of some small officials'.The Hindu shrine of Sharda Devi in Pakistan administered Kashmir is revered by Kashmiri Pandits, but they have not got permission to visit it even though the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad route was opened in April 2005.