Joint Kashmir Chamber Calls For Free Movement For Traders

Joint Kashmir Chamber Calls For Free Movement For Traders

6 February 2012
Express Tribune
AH Nizami

Mirpur: The apex business body of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian-held Kashmir has called for early introduction of a liberal regime, ensuring free movement of traders between the two sides to make trade meaningful, objective and a complete success. Talking to The Express Tribune at his office, Federation of Jammu and Kashmir Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Zulfiqar Abbasi said free movement of business community from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) was imperative for promotion of trade. He demanded the introduction of a liberal policy for swift issuance of travel documents to traders with multiple-entry facility. Abbasi asked both Pakistani and Indian governments to issue a special travel pass to the traders with validity of a couple of years on chamber’s recommendation. He also sought permission for traders to travel across the LoC in their own vehicles. “This is the need of the hour for physical interaction, business deals and direct access to markets.” In an effort to cut costs, Abbasi said fully-loaded trucks carrying 15 to 20 tons of goods should be allowed from both sides. At present, trucks loaded with one to one and a half tons of goods are permitted to transport goods to the other side. “For this purpose, the dilapidated suspension bridges should be replaced with concrete and wide bridges,” he suggested. Trade between the two sides is restricted to four days in a week through two routes – Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch. Dealings are made under the barter system. Traders from both sides have called for the truck service to be allowed for the whole week on both routes as well as other proposed traditional routes. The value of the bilateral trade varies from day to day. The items being traded are also not always the same. Some 35 trucks exchanged sides via the Rawalakot-Poonch route by late Thursday evening, carrying goods worth around Rs18 million, officials say. Jammu and Kashmir traders supplied onion, red chilli, dry coriander, herbs and tamarind worth Rs7.3 million to their counterparts in Rawalakot on what was the third day of the weekly trade. Similarly, Azad Jammu and Kashmir traders supplied dry fruit, fresh fruit, herbs and Peshawari sandals valued at Rs10.60 million. In an attempt to increase the number of goods traded between the two sides, the Federation of Jammu and Kashmir Chamber has constituted working groups comprising experts in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot, Srinagar, Jammu and Poonch, which will prepare a list of local products for trade. The list will then be submitted to the authorities for approval. According to Zulfiqar Abbasi, there was complete unanimity of views in business fraternity of both sides vis-a-vis promotion of trade. This can be reflected in the fact that the chambers from both sides formed a joint forum – the Federation of Jammu and Kashmir Chambers of Commerce and Industry – during a visit of AJK chamber’s trade team to Srinagar, Jammu and other parts of Indian-held Kashmir.