Regular meetings to be held to sort out visa, trading permit problems

While expressing their intention to normalise trade between India and Pakistan, Foreign Ministers S.M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday announced enhancement of CBMs for trade and travel across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides most of the two Kashmirs.

Key among them are enhancing the number of trading days from two to four a week, six-month entry permits and encouraging travel for both tourism and religious purposes.

The two laid stress on setting time lines to ensure regular meetings at the administration level to sort out visa and trading permit wrinkles. They also placed a great deal of emphasis on improving facilities for trading on both sides of the border.

However, both sides were unable to agree on increasing the number of trading points or designating banks so as to move from the primitive barter arrangement that generally restricted trade to families divided by the LoC.

In tune with the step-by-step approach, they held out the promise of ensuring regular meetings between traders of both sides in due course and improving communication facilities.

While deciding to “respect” the list of 21 products of permissible items for cross-LoC trade, the Foreign Ministers agreed to further specify permissible items.

On expanding cross-LoC travel to cover tourism and pilgrimage also, both sides would work out the modalities, again in due course.

The six-month multiple-entry cross-LoC travel permits would be allowed after completion of the required formalities “at an early date.”

On trade proper between India and Pakistan, promises were held out on the “early establishment” of a non-discriminatory trade regime.

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