Pakistan – India Renew Trade Ties

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Sept. 23 – India is reworking and strenghtening its ties with its northern neighbors – Nepal and Pakistan.

While India and Nepal recently held landmark meetings to discuss the 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty of Peace and Friendship, a decades-old pact governing bilateral relations, India and Pakistan also recently, reignited talks between the two nations.

Pushing ahead with their peace process, India and Pakistan on Monday finalised modalities to open up the Line of Control (LoC) for cross-Kashmir trade on Monday.

A joint statement issued by the two countries after a meeting of their joint working group said that trade would happen at designated points on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot routes.

A formal announcement to this effect, however, is expected later this week when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari in New York for the first time on September 24, the Hindustan Times reported.

The deal includes 21 items that would be traded between the two arch rivals. These include fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, saffron, wooden items and apple juice among others.

It was also decided that trucks from either side would not cross over to the other side but would stop at the border from where the goods would be transported on foot. Temporary infrastructure has already been set-up in the border areas for this purpose.

“There will be a designated authority on both sides to work out the modalities,” an official said. The Pakistani side, however, turned down India’s demand for a bus service between Kargil and Skardu.

“We have finalised the modalities… We will submit it to our principals, our bosses… Hopefully, it’ll work out,” Pakistan’s Additional Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary told reporters here after the meeting. Asked when trade would begin, he said: “Political masters will decide.”

“This is a very big step forward. Traders on both sides are very keen to go ahead with this. They want trade to begin,” a Pakistani diplomat said.

A joint working group comprising senior government officials from both countries held talks on starting border trade in Kashmir following unrest in Jammu and Kashmir over a planned government land transfer to Hindu pilgrims, Reuters said.

Last month, Hindus in Jammu region cut off supplies to the mountainous Kashmir area after the government backed out of its promise to transfer land to build shelters for Hindu pilgrims.

The dispute polarised Indian Kashmir, split between the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, severely curbing trade between the two areas.

As a result, traders in Kashmir wanted to sell their goods in neighbouring Pakistan and asked the government to talk to its neighbour.