Blame Pak, not India for delaying cross-LoC trade

16 August 2008
The Hindustan Times
Aloke Tikku

New Delhi: Islamabad, not Delhi, is holding up opening the trade route along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, the central government said on Saturday, rebutting attempts by Kashmiri separatists leaders to blame Delhi for the delay. The government's assertion came at the end of a meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his senior Cabinet colleagues like home minister Shivraj Patil and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue. The ministry also emphasised that the only difficulties in free movement of traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu highway was due to calls for bandh and other protests in the Kashmir Valley. At the same time, separatist elements were exploiting the disruptions to raise demands and slogans for opening the cross LoC route for trade. Thousands of Kashmiris have been out on the streets for most of this week on calls given by separatist leaders demanding opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to give fruit growers an alternative. An effort has been made by some elements to try and project that there have been delays on the part of the government of India in the process of commencement of cross ôLoC trade. The facts are otherwise, the home ministry said. The ministry said the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service was targeted to begin two years ago. It did not, because the list of 80 businessmen given to Pakistan in May 2006 was not cleared. Again at the July 2008, India proposed that trade begin immediately on basis of list of items proposed by each side. Pakistan, however, presented a fresh listand certain other conditions. When pressed, the Pakistan delegation agreed to reconsider, the statement said. The statement, the first detailed communiqu issued from Delhi, came in the backdrop of the Centre's view that the problem in Jammu as well as Kashmir had its roots in a successful, and emotional misinformation campaign launched by separatists leaders like SAS Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.