Kashmiri leaders hail trade launching as victory
SRINAGAR: Kashmiri leaders on Tuesday hailed the opening of cross-LoC trade as a victory. “This is the first step toward achieving economic independence for Kashmir,” APHC leader Mirwaiz Omer Farooq said. The opening of the trade route has been a key demand of Kashmiri separatists. However, they said India still needed to acknowledge Kashmir was disputed, and should be prepared to address the issue of the future of the region. AJK President Raja Zulqarnain said the event was a positive development, but not the resolution to the dispute. He said, however, it was a step in that direction. agencies (Daily Times)
India, Pakistan resume Kashmir trade after 60 years
Tuesday, 21 Oct, 2008 | 01:18 PM PST |
Kashmiri fruit dealer drive towards the Line of control, Kashmir’s de facto border in Baramulla.—AP
President Zardari delivers on his promise of reinforcing peace in the region.
ISALAMABAD: India and Pakistan began trading between their respective parts of Kashmir for the first time in six decades on Tuesday, raising hopes of a drop in tension in the disputed Himalayan region.
A convoy of 13 trucks carrying mostly apples set off on a historic trip to Azad Kashmir from occupied Kashmir, with 14 trucks with Pakistani goods making the journey in the opposite direction.
‘It is a historic day which will surely help the economy of both parts of Kashmir,’ said occupied Kashmir’s Governor N.N. Vohra, as he flagged off the convoy from Salamabad, 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the heavily militarised Line of Control.
‘I hope it will herald peace in the region,’ he said.
Villagers here cheered and waved at the truck drivers as they steered their vehicles out of a warehouse, as traditional drum-beaters entertained the crowd.
The crossing is the first time that vehicles will be allowed to cross Aman Setu or Peace Bridge on the LoC since India and Pakistan fought a war over the region in 1947.
Security was tight for the trade opening, with even the fruit subject to stringent security checks.
‘The items were scanned in x-ray machines here before allowing the truckers to take them across,’ a police officer Faisal Qayoom said.
The opening of the trade route has been a key demand of Kashmiri separatists.
Kashmiri truckers said they were delighted about the resumption of trade.
‘I am very happy to be part of this historic moment,’ said Ghulam Hassan Baba, a driver from Srinagar.
‘It is a big leap forward,’ said Mubeen Shah, head of the traders’ federation in occupied Kashmir.
Separatists, however, say India still needs to acknowledge that Kashmir is disputed, and be prepared to address the underlying issue of the future of the region.
Making the borders ‘irrelevant’?
As fifteen trucks laden with “gift items” cross
the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir today, a first step will have been taken in “making borders irrelevant”, a policy agreed between Pakistan and India. The decision on this policy was taken last month by the PPP coalition government and agreed to by New Delhi. The idea is to replace an earlier policy of confrontation in which neither party was making headway with a lateral attempt to “to solve the Kashmir dispute by creating ‘soft borders’ and allowing free movement of goods and people”.
What has been thrown open is the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. Another route between Poonch and Rawlakot will be open for trade on October 30. Under an agreement, the trucks will cross the LoC at the two designated points twice a week and no customs duty will be imposed on the traded goods. Traders on both sides will conduct business through barter, as no banking facility exists at this stage. A total of 21 items have been approved for import and export by the Joint Working Group of India and Pakistan.
The route just opened is familiar to few old Kashmiris because the last time it was used was 60 years ago. This was Indian Kashmir’s only link with the outside world in those days. It is all-weather and shorter than the only road coming from India, snaking through Jammu on a road often blocked in winters. Any strategist with imagination — and strategy is self-defeating without imagination — will know the advantages that will accrue to Pakistan from this arrangement. He will know that Pakistan’s stance of not accepting the LoC as an international boundary would be upheld as trade punctures the putative frontier.
The Indian side has agreed to this puncturing of the LoC clearly in favour of Pakistan’s stance by popularising the idea of “making boundaries irrelevant”. The use of the plural for boundary is of a piece with India’s traditional stance on the boundaries existing between India and Pakistan, a familiar stance of a status quo country. While Pakistan is constrained from objecting to the trade route on the basis of its doctrine of non-acceptance of the LoC as a sealed boundary, India is happy that it is adhering to its old status quo doctrine, inviting Pakistan to open up to India instead of confronting India.
The truth of the matter is that neither India nor Pakistan has been able to impose its solution on the Kashmir dispute. They have tried wars and they have tried diplomacy, but both have been forced to wake up to the fact that they cannot have their way in the disputed territory on the basis of their separate and mutually exclusive policies. On the Pakistani side, the stance taken on the LoC has forced it to modify the earlier inflexible attitude towards an easing of contacts including trade with India. The attitude of shying away from contact has evolved out of the revisionist strategy of the state demanding a solution of the dispute before any “normalisation” is allowed.
Pakistan’s former foreign minister, Mr Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, had said in August 2007 that that any solution to the Kashmir problem could not be “ideal” for the concerned parties, but that both parties would have to make concessions to resolve the problem. He had added, “Ultimately, a solution to Kashmir will be one that is not the best perceived either by a majority of Indians, a majority of Pakistanis or a majority of Kashmiris”. The two mainstream parties of Pakistan, the PPP and the PMLN, had already expressed their resolve to seek normalisation with India in the Charter of Democracy in 2006.
Unfortunately, the word “irrelevant” has not been favoured in discussions on TV channels. That is understandable because of its extrapolation to the rest of the Indo-Pak boundary, but its application to the latest trade route is not at all against the interests of Pakistan. On the ground, Pakistan’s position is strong in so far as the people on both sides of the LoC want to have a freer intercourse and would rather have the LoC “punctured” than sterilised. That is why the decision taken by India and Pakistan to ease interaction across the LoC after the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 was accepted. Indeed, a recent food emergency in the Valley could have been averted had the cross-LoC trade been open.
In a way Pakistan’s options have become clearer after its confrontation with terrorism inside its boundaries. The government and the army would not like to be distracted by trouble with India while they are trying to re-establish the writ of the state in the Tribal Areas. Also, the economic crisis looming large in the coming months would be reduced in its intensity somewhat if headway is made in expanding trade links with India all across the international frontier. Of course, this can happen without Pakistan formally giving up its traditional stance on the status of Jammu & Kashmir. (Daily Times)