In Flood Hit Kashmir, Traders To Import Woolen Clothing, Matting, Rice From PaK

30 October 2014
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: In the wake of recent floods, the Kashmiri traders associated with LoC trade have decided to import woolen clothing, matting and rice from PaK, which according to them would be affordable for the flood-hit people in the Valley. The cross LoC trade which remained suspended for two weeks following the devastating floods in Kashmir was resumed three weeks ago. However, according to the traders right now there won't be any demand here for the products like dry fruit and spices which 'we mostly imported through this trade in the pre-floods.' They added: 'We have now placed orders for woolen items, matting, rice, basmati and pulses as they are comparatively cheaper and could get a good market during winter months here,' they said. Talking to Greater Kashmir, Secretary Salamabad- Chakoti Traders' Association, Hilal Turki said: 'We have urged our brethren (traders across the LoC) to send us woolen clothing, rice, basmati, matting and pulses as winter is approaching and these items are much sought-after goods in the flood-affected Kashmir,' Turki said. He said that Kashmir has these days huge demand for matting items as most of the houses which remained submerged during floods lost their furnishing. 'So to meet the requirement we will be importing matting from PaK as it is cheaper as compared to other matting products imported from different parts of India,' he said, adding that earlier they used to import PaK matting which had a good demand here, besides cross LoC trade is tax free which further reduces its MRP in the market. Turki said that shortage of rice felt during floods in Kashmir could have been easily overcome had government of India and Pakistan worked together for upgrading the cross Loc trade. 'We have already asked for rice and pulses for PaK,' he said, adding that goods would soon be available in the market. 'If the need arises we could easily import onion and potato from PaK as our local production has been destroyed by flood.' Turki said had the governments of both countries, India and Pakistan, been 'sincere' the Kashmir fruits particularly the apple could have been easily exported through LoC routes during eventualities like recent floods when the Srinagar- Jammu highway remained closed. 'But unfortunately as it is still a barter trade, the fruit growers shy away from exporting their fruit to PaK,' he said, adding that due to lack of communication and banking facilities this trade has become a mere 'symbolic gesture' between India and Pakistan. As per the traders the number of traders associated with this trade is shrinking. 'In 2008 when the cross LoC trade was started, as many as 600 traders were involved in it, but now the number has reduced to mere 60,' they said. At present 21 items are being traded between two parts of Kashmir. The trade is being conducted via Salamabad- Chakoti and Chakandabagh-Rawalakote routes. Meanwhile, cross LoC traders are hopeful that this time the trade should not suffer because of escalating tension on LoC and international border between India and Pakistan. 'We hope that the two countries won't let this trade to be impacted by the LoC bickering,' they said. In the past, on many occasions, trade across LoC was suspended due to tension between two countries. In January, trade came to a standstill after a truck driver from the Pakistan side of Kashmir was arrested on charge of carrying banned substance. About 48 trucks were stranded on the Indian side while 27 Indian trucks were held back, as Pakistan demanded the driver be handed over to them so that the case could be investigated there. It was argued that the driver could not be arrested given the terms of the trade and the fact that he enjoyed 'diplomatic immunity'. Trade had resumed over a month later. The cross-LoC trade began in 2008 through Salamabad in Uri and Chakan-da-Bagh in Poonch district with two trade facilitation centres.