Centre: no economic blockade of Valley, Pak cashing in on turmoil

16 August 2008
The Indian Express


New Delhi: Seeking to put an end to rumours doing the rounds in the Kashmir valley, the Centre on Saturday made it clear once again there was no ‘economic blockade’ of Kashmir and reiterated it was Pakistan, and not New Delhi, which was preventing the opening of trade links between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. A few days of traffic jam on the National Highway 1A during the height of agitation in Jammu has been exploited by some political groups in the Valley by describing it as an ‘economic blockade’ of Kashmir. Fruit growers, whose produce got wasted in trucks stuck in the traffic jams, were urged by these groups to dump their fruits in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Addressing the people in the Kashmir valley, the Centre said the initial bottlenecks on the National Highway 1A had been cleared and told the people their protests against the so-called ‘blockade’ was hampering their own interests. “Unfortunately, due to calls for bandhs and other protests in the Kashmir valley, despite the fact that the highway is through, there have been difficulties in the full and free movement of goods and traffic,” the Home Ministry said in a statement. The Centre said the situation was being exploited to raise demands and slogans for opening the cross LoC route for trade and movement of goods, which the Indian Government had already expressed its support for. “As early as on 15 April, 2005, it had been agreed with Pakistan that truck services across the LoC would also be initiated to promote trade. It was also agreed to start the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service to facilitate cross LoC trade in the first half of July 2006,” the statement said. The ministry said it was agreed to send a delegation of chambers of commerce on either side of the LoC to discuss the various aspects of this trade. But these visits have not happened in the absence of Pakistani clearance. “To begin cross-LoC trade as soon as possible India proposed that trade begin immediately on the basis of the lists of items proposed by each side for import and export. Pakistan, however, presented a fresh list, common for both imports and exports and certain other conditions. When pressed, the Pakistan delegation agreed to reconsider so that trade could proceed on the basis of the earlier agreement on the basis of agreed lists for import and export of both sides,” it said. “We had emphasised to Pakistan that they should not insist on procedural issues raised by them as that would tie up the whole issue in a morass of red tape and further delay the initiation of cross-LoC trade. India is ready to commence cross-LoC trade, but awaits Pakistani willingness to implement the agreement reached in April 2005,” it added.