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CBMs welcome but barter system should go: Traders

Political CBMs should also be initiated, says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

The new set of Confidence Building Measures across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir has been hailed by traders and political parties here as a positive step towards normalising the situation and intensifying peace efforts. However, they have called for removal of bottlenecks like the barter system to achieve real progress.

Following their meeting in New Delhi, the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan announced an increase in the number of trade days from two to four a week, introduction of a travel permit for six months, with multiple entries, to be issued within a maximum period of 45 days, facilitation of regular meetings of chambers of commerce and industry from both sides, strengthening of telecommunication facilities for cross- LOC trade and provision of adequate facilities at trade facilitation centres.

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Nazir Ahmad Dar told The Hindu : “To the extent of increasing the number of trade days to four, we welcome it, but the main hurdle to the progress of trade is the barter system.” In the absence of a common currency and proper banking facility, traders were keeping themselves away from this. “It has to be intra-Kashmir trade with banking facilities,” he said.

Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) president Zahoor Ahmad echoed him, saying that unless the main demand of providing banking facilities was fulfilled and the barter system was ended, progress, “which is expected following these CBMs,” would be impeded.

Mohamad Yaseen Khan, president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, said: “Surely the announcement of the CBMs will go a long way in boosting the cross-LOC trade and normalising the relations between these two nations.” The announcement should be followed up with implementation of the CBMs on the ground.

Former FCIK president Shakeel Qalandar said: “Although a good step in improving the trade activities between two parts of Kashmir, non-fulfilment of the long-pending demand of making all items tradable, instead of [limiting the number to] specific 21 items, and the absence of banking facilities will affect the prospects of cross-LOC trade.”

The Muzaffarabad-based president of the Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industries (for entire J & K), Zulfikar Abbasi, while welcoming all positive measures announced in the joint statement, the barter system deprived a majority of Kashmiris on both sides of the opportunity of participating in trade.

He said review and expansion of the trade list should have been made time-bound. Former J&K Chief Minister and PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Mufti said the measures announced in the joint statement indicated significant progress in carrying forward the peace process and building of trust between the neighbours, important for finding a lasting solution to the dispute in J&K.

National Conference leader and Member of Parliament Mehboob Beg said the joint statement was a positive step. “But it should be a continuous process and all other issues related to trade should be resolved.”

Hurriyat Conference (moderate) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: “We have always supported cross-LOC CBMs but the political CBMs should also be initiated.” Kashmir should be demilitarised and black laws should go, he said.

  • “It has to be intra-Kashmir trade with banking facilities”
  • “Make all items tradable, increase number of trade days”

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