Kashmiri traders losing interest in cross-LoC trade

SRINAGAR: Lack of facilities critical for its growth is making cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade unpopular among the traders.

According to sources, number of traders involved in cross-LoC trade is decreasing day by day and the number is expected to go down further due to tension between India and Pakistan.

“In 2008 when it was started, 580 traders were registered for trade. However, the number has steeply come down to around 60 businessmen who are presently actively participating in the trade,” sources said.

Besides pointing to infrastructure deficiencies, the traders allege that governments of India and Pakistan are indifferent to the trade. “Neither of the two countries seems sincere in promoting the trade as the authorities are creating unnecessary hurdles in it,” they said.

“While the trade between India and Pakistan via Wagah border is showing tremendous growth, it has not been allowed to pick up across LoC,” sources said.

To mention, tipped as confidence building measure, the cross-LoC trade was started in October 2008 to deescalate the tension and strengthen the economic ties between the two countries.

The traders said skirmishes reported for over a month on the Indo-Pak border in Jammu division and along LoC in Kashmir have directly impacted the trade. “Due to the tension prevailing on the LoC, sometimes the trade is even being unofficially suspended,” they said.

Muhammad Tariq Khan, President, Salamabad- Chakote Traders’ Association confirmed that the number of traders involved in cross-LoC trade was shrinking day by day.

“Traders are losing interest as there are so many obstacles in the trade. There are no banking and communication facilities. Approach of both countries towards this trade is not appreciative,” Khan said.

Khan said they have number of times urged both the countries to increase the number of tradable items.

“Only 21 items are allowed for trade. We want governments of India and Pakistan do away with the list and prepare a negative list containing limited number of items,” he said.