Delhi talks fail to take decision on providing a banking facility for them

Not much was expected from the India-Pakistan Foreign Minister-level engagement in New Delhi and so when the joint statement was released it was accepted with a quiet sense of resignation. In fact, just the fact that the two Ministers did not end up sparring in public like they did after a similar meeting in Islamabad last year was a relief even as the traders involved in cross-Line of Control trade felt short-changed.

Though the Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry welcomed the additional measures announced by the two governments to expand the scope of cross-LoC trade and travel, there was disappointment over the absence of a decision on providing a banking facility for the traders.

The president of the Joint Chamber, Zulfiqar Abbasi, told journalists that the delay in putting in place a banking mechanism and consequent continuation of cross-LoC trade on the barter system deprived a majority of Kashmiris on both sides the opportunity of benefiting from this confidence building measure (CBM).

Acknowledging the fact that increasing the number of days of trading across the LoC and duration of stay besides allowing travel across the two Kashmirs for tourism and pilgrimage were the only tangible results of this round of dialogue between India and Pakistan, the traders had clearly hoped for more.

Since India had sent a proposal identifying the J&K Bank as its nodal banking point for cross-LoC trade, the traders hoped Pakistan would reciprocate. Similarly, they hoped that more items would be included in the list of commodities that could be traded. As such more trading days is not of much use, because, according to the traders, officials on both sides were restricting trade items even from the existing list of 21 “day by day on some pretext or the other.”

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