Jammu, May 17 (IANS) Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh Thursday visited Jammu and Kashmir’s frontier Poonch district and discussed with local people issues concerning trade across the Line of Control (LOC) between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
Meeting a delegation of traders in Poonch, 240 km northwest of Jammu, on the second day of his two-day visit to the state, Singh discussed the problems faced in cross-LOC trade that began in December 2008 on a barter basis as there was no agreement on currency to be used.
‘No banking facility, and no telecom facility between two trading sides is itself a big problem besides many others,’ Pawan Anand, leader of Cross-LOC Traders Union in Poonch, told IANS over telephone.
Opening of banking channels on either side for cross-LoC trade to end the barter system and starting communication systems were among the issues the traders as well as the administration took up with the home secretary. The traders’ demands have also been backed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Singh made an on-the-spot review of arrangements made for cross-LoC trade and the facilities and infrastructure required to give boost to it in the run-up to his visit to Islamabad where cross-LOC trade would be one of the main issues of discussion.
Abdullah recently said in the assembly that the central government should open the banking system for the trade instead of the present barter system and facilitate communication channels to boost the trade.
During his recent visit to Poonch, the chief minister underlined: ‘There is a need for restoration of telephonic links between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir and putting in place a proper institutional arrangement by replacing the current barter system of trade, which will also address the security concerns.’
The traders also demanded that the number of items to be traded should be increased to 50 from the present 21.
Terming the cross-LoC trade as a major confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan, they said there was a need to further ease it so that its benefits trickle down to the trading partners.
The trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkote routes 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 was not picking up, traders said.