India, Pakistan agree on cross-border trade in Kashmir news
22 September 2008

Mumbai: India and Pakistan have finalised the modalities of cross border trade in Kashmir despite the recent incidents of firing and militant incursions across the Line of Control.

A formal date is likely to be announced by prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari this week.

The decision was made at a day-long meeting of the joint working group on cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures in New Delhi, after which a joint press statement was issued.

The Indian delegation was led by T C A Raghavan, joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, while the Pakistan side was headed by the foreign affairs ministry's additional secretary Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary.

''The modalities of cross-LoC trade were finalised," said the joint press release.

The two trade routes will connect Srinagar to Muzaffarabad and Poonch to Rawalkote and a third one, the Kargil-Skardu route, is under negotiation.

The news has been welcomed by all, including Kashmiri separatists, mainstream parties and the Jammu Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the protests of the Sangharsh Samiti.

The news is a major boost to the PDP which was siding with the separatist's demands to bolter their image.

''We welcome it. It is something people in Jammu and Kashmir have wanted for a long time,'' said Mehbooba Mufti, President, PDP.

''We welcome it, but it should not be symbolic,'' said Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, chairman, All India Hurriyat Conference.

The Jammu Chamber of Commerce, which headed the Sangarsh Samiti's protests, also welcomed the decision, although the BJP was not happy with it.

A business delegation will now visit Jammu and Srinagar to discuss the details in what could be the biggest confidence building measure for Jammu and Kashmir in a long time.

The idea of cross-LoC trade had been first mooted in 2005, but had been held up for want of steps required to put it into effect.

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India, Pakistan agree on cross-border trade in Kashmir