Business Track II: In Tashkent, traders from both sides of Kashmir meet, pitch for resumption of cross LoC trade

Srinagar: Representatives of Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Associations/Federations of Cross-LoC traders and some independent entrepreneurs met for a ‘Jammu and Kashmir Cross-Line of Control Business Track II’ in Tashkent, Uzbekistan between June 23-25.

The meeting was facilitated by the Conciliation Resources as part of its support to the Cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures since 2009.

The participants took a comprehensive view of the cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures initiated by the Governments of India and Pakistan since 2005.They acknowledged the fact that various CBMs like trade and travel across LoC, in their limited scope, have contributed in building trust and enhancing shared understanding between regions and communities.

Participants were of the unanimous view that agreement on opening of the Line of Control for travel of divided families and further allowing it for trade was a demonstration of the statesmanship of the leadership of India and Pakistan.

The participants, particularly, the cross-LoC traders said that responding to the CBMs agreed by the Governments of India and Pakistan, they sustained the cross-LoC trade with emotional investment despite severe financial risks and procedural and operational difficulties.

They also noted with concern and regret that after launch of trade on an archaic and adhoc model in 2008, the Governments did not do enough to put the mechanisms on modern lines which left it vulnerable to possible misuse. They regretted that the trade had to be suspended by the Government on the Indian side, with effect from 18 April 2019, for no fault of genuine traders. The abrupt suspension of trade has resulted into avoidable opportunity loss.

They also noted with deep regret that the peace building and economic potential of the cross-LoC trade could not be realized to its optimum strength due to a variety of reasons. The participants acknowledged the political sensitivities and difficulties in actualizing the spirit behind softening of Line of Control, but they vehemently asserted that businesses can be viewed separately from politics as in the case of India-Pakistan International Trade which has continued uninterruptedly despite many bilateral setbacks.

The participants called upon the Governments of India and Pakistan to take a comprehensive review of the modalities and technical mechanism to restore operation of Cross-LoC trade as early as possible. The participating Cross-LoC traders and leaders of business chambers from both sides of the divide assured their respective Governments of their full support and assistance in putting the trade on modern and transparent lines to the benefit of economic development and peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

The participants also called upon the J&K Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (a consortium of regional chambers in Srinagar, Jammu and Mirpur) to closely work with the Government authorities and the traders for early resumption of trade. The President of the JKJCCI Mr Rakesh Gupta, Joint Presidents Sheikh Ashiq (President Kashmir Chamber) and Sohail Shujjah (Mirpur) reiterated their commitment to liaise between Government authorities, traders and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that real intention behind this unique CBM is not lost.

Participation of women entrepreneurs from both sides of the Line of Control was one of the key highlights of the Tashkent meeting.

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