India-Pakistan Restart Cross Border Trade After a Six Decade Hiatus

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Oct 21 – Trucks loaded with fresh fruits, honey, nuts, dry fruits and spices crossed the Kashmir valley from Pakistan controlled Kashmir to the Indian side and back for the first time in six decades. In a historic move, the heavily guarded trade route between arch rivals India and Pakistan was opened to trade from both sides on Tuesday. The easing of trade restrictions follows confidence building measures taken by both sides in order to tap the huge potential of trade and economic ties across the India-Pakistan border.

Welcomed by traders and businessmen on both sides of the border, the trade route is heralded as not only a physical gateway for goods, but also has a symbolic and psychological impact – that of opening markets and increasing condidence. Previously goods were transported to the border by porters and loaded onto trucks on the other side.

"The time has come when we should move forward towards economic as well as political freedom," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told the AFP, adding the route could turn out to be a "first step towards a political resolution" of the Kashmir issue.

The main road opened on Tuesday was between Srinagar – Indian Kashmir's summer capital and Muzaffarabad in pakistan Kashmir. The second trade route expected to be opened at a later date will connect Poonch on the Indian side with Rawalkot village in Pakistani Kashmir. During the initial stages, trade will only take place once a week with a limited list of goods allowed, across the borders.

A Peace bus service connecting Srinagar with Muzaffarabad was started in 2005, however because of the stringent security checks, and bureaucracy on both sides, only 9,000 odd people have travelled across on the bus.