HS meets Guv, CM; discuss AFSPA, Rehab Policy

HS meets Guv, CM; discuss AFSPA, Rehab Policy

16 May 2012
The Daily Excelsior


Jammu: Internal security scenario including arrangements for Amarnath yatra, border management, partial revocation of Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA), recommendations of the Interlocutors and Rehabilitation policy for the militants came under a high level review at two separate meetings Union Home Secretary R K Singh had with Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah separately in Srinagar this evening. Mr Singh had dinner meeting with Mr Vohra that lasted more than an hour at Raj Bhawan in Srinagar, the summer capital of the State. Official sources said Mr Vohra and the Union Home Secretary had a detailed discussion on security scenario in the State. Both shared their perception of the situation. Arrangements for annual Amarnath pilgrimage beginning on June 25 were also discussed, they added. The Union Home Ministry has agreed to provide 74 additional companies of para-military for deployment during Amarnath yatra. The issues pertaining to partial revocation of AFSPA from Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Srinagar and Budgam districts as demanded by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also came for a detailed discussion during the meetings. While the Governor gave his perception on the demand, Omar Abdullah stressed for revocation of the Act. The Rehabilitation Policy for Kashmiri militants, who were now returning from Pakistan and PoK via Nepal route, lands and buildings occupied by Army and security forces, trans-LoC trade and training programme for police personnel besides counter-terrorism operations were discussed by Mr Vohra and Mr Singh at their dinner meeting. Sources said the Chief Minister also touched almost the similar issues like removal of some CRPF bunkers from Srinagar City, partial withdrawal of AFSPA and Rehabilitation Policy with the Home Secretary. Law and order situation and security scenario also figured in the meeting between Omar and Mr Singh that lasted about 40 minutes. Omar and Mr Singh also discussed summer strategy for Kashmir, sources said, adding that the Kashmir Valley was expecting heavy influx of tourists and Amarnath yatris this year. Union Home Secretary R K Singh, who reached Srinagar, the summer capital of the State this evening, would be visiting both cross-LoC points of Chakan-Da-Bagh on Poonch-Rawlakote route and Salamabad on Uri-Muzaffarabad route tomorrow morning to hold a high level review of steps required to boost the trade. Mr Singh would be holding separate meetings with the traders, dealing with cross-LoC business between two parts of divided State, and officers of different departments associated with the business at both the places. The meeting of the Union Home Secretary assumed significance as he was scheduled to meet his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 24 and 25 to discuss Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), cross-border terrorism and steps required to boost trade on two cross-LoC points in Jammu and Kashmir and Wagah International Border in Amritsar district of Punjab. Prior to his Jammu and Kashmir visit, Mr Singh had visited Wagah border to acquaint himself with problems of the traders and steps needed to boost the trade. Mr Singh would reach Poonch from Srinagar at 7.15 am and drove to Chakan-Da-Bagh for meetings with the traders and officers. He would fly to Salamabad from Poonch at 9.30 am. Official sources told the Excelsior that Mr Singh would fly to Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch district from Srinagar tomorrow morning and hold two separate high level meetings with traders and officers at the zero line dividing Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Eleven traders at both Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad would meet the Home Secretary and submit him memorandum enlisting their demands. On the eve of Mr Singh's visit, traders of two parts of the divided State had floated a 44 members Cross-LoC Traders Federation. It comprised 11 members each from Poonch and other parts of Jammu, Rawlakote and surrounding belts, Uri and other parts of Kashmir and Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK. Pawan Anand, one of the members of Cross-LoC Traders Federation, told the Excelsior from Poonch that the traders would urge the Home Secretary to issue negative list of the items, which can't be exported to other side of the LoC and allow rest all other items for export instead of confining the trade to just 21 items, most of which items have been banned frequently by the two sides for import-export. Mr Anand said the cross-LoC trade can't survive on just red chilly and both Government of India and Pakistan should allow free trade on Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes. 'Instead of confining the trade to 21 items, the two Government should issue one negative list of items and allow rest all items for import-export on two cross-LoC routes', he added. Sources said the traders would also like the Government to lift the limit of trucks, which could cross-LoC on one day of four days trade in a week. They added that if the Government really wanted to give a boost to the cross-LoC trade it should lift the limit of 25 trucks per day for crossing over to other side of the LoC. Presently, 50 trucks can cross to PoK every day from Uri and 25 trucks from Poonch. First four days of the week have been fixed for the trade from the two sides. The traders would demand setting up of whole body scanner for early clearance of trucks and ensure fool-proof security at the trade centre. Sources said besides meeting the traders, the Home Secretary would review steps for boosting cross-LoC trade with all local officials including that of Customs, Immigration, civil administration, police, Intelligence agencies and all other officers engaged with cross-LoC trade. Two other major demands of the cross-LoC traders, which have also been backed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, included opening of banking channels on either side of cross-LoC routes to end barter system of business between two parts of divided State and communication system. They would take up the demands with the Union Home Secretary. The issue of communication channels and currency system for the trade was expected to figure during the Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan later this month. Sources said the Union Government wanted to take up the issue of converting cross-LoC trade from barter system to currency based. The ways and means for switching over to new system would first be discussed with civil and police administration besides Intelligence and other agencies engaged with conducting cross-LoC trade followed by representatives of the State Government before the Home Secretary took up the issue with his counterpart of Pakistan in Islamabad. In the present barter system of trade, the businessmen had been facing a lot of problems to maintain their accounts and currency of both the countries keep on fluctuating. The lack of communication system between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was another issue, which was being discussed by the Union Government on the request of the State Government. It may be mentioned here that ISD link from J&K to any part of Pakistan besides PoK has been barred for past quite a long time as a security reason following apprehensions by security agencies that the militants could misuse the communication facility. Sources said upgradation of infrastructure at Trade Facilitation Centres at Poonch and Salamabad including installation of full truck scanners and providing other facilities to the businessmen was also under consideration of the Centre Government. Increase in number of items from present list of 21 for trade between two parts of the divided State was also on agenda of the Union Government. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had recently said in the Legislative Assembly that the Union Government should open the banking system for the trade instead of present barter system and facilitate communication channels to boost the trade. Sources said representatives of the State Government, civil and police administration and other agencies connected with the trade besides the businessmen dealing with cross-LoC trade would take up the demand for increasing number of 21 items to 50 for the trade besides facilitation of banking system and opening up communication channels. Terming cross-LoC trade as a major confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan, sources said there was a need to further ease it so that its benefits trickle down to the trading partners. 'There is a need for restoration of telephonic links between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and putting in place a proper institutional arrangement by replacing the current barter system of trade which will also address the security concerns,' they said. They said the Union Government was required to take up the matter with the Ministries concerned so that the trade can flourish in real terms. The cross-LoC trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote had recently been increased from twice a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) to four days (Tuesday to Friday). However, in the absence of increase in number of items and use of currency, the trade had not been picking up, sources said. It may be mentioned here that the trade between India and Pakistan through the land route has soared by 44 per cent in 2011-12 to Rs 2,341 crore from Attari-Wagah route. Though the balance of trade is still in India's favour, the import from Pakistan through land route rose by over 100 per cent to Rs 965 crore in 2011-12 against Rs 453 crore in the previous fiscal.