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High hopes in Kashmir as India meets Pakistan

Sunday July 24, 2011 06:51:57 PM, Sheikh Qayoom, IANS

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Srinagar: More tradable items, frequent bus services and further easing of India-Pakistan tensions.The common Kashmiri is eyeing the July 27 meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in New Delhi with many hopes.

"We demand an increase in the number of cross-LoC (Line of Control) trading days from two a week to four," Hilal Ahmad Turki, general secretary of the cross-LoC traders' association, told IANS.

"The trade list includes just 21 items. It must be expanded to include all tradable commodities. We trade purely on barter basis. We demand banking facilities for traders of both sides so that cross-LoC trade is carried on as a modern commercial practice," he added.

Currently, cross-LoC trade is carried on through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road where vehicles with goods from the two sides of divided Kashmir cross the Aman Setu Bridge on the LoC near Uri. Muzaffarabad is a part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The goods brought into the Kashmir Valley from Muzaffarabad are unloaded at the Salamabad trade facilitation centre near Uri while those from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad are unloaded at Chakoti trade facilitation centre in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Cross-LoC trade is also carried on through Chakan Da Bagh near the LoC in Poonch district of the Jammu region.

On the other hand, many divided families on both sides have been demanding increase in the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service known as Carvan-e-Aman.

"My relatives live on the other side of the LoC. We want increase in the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service so that more people of divided families can meet each other," said Abdul Aziz who lives close to the LOC in the Uri sector of north Kashmir's Baramulla district.

People living in the far-off Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region also demand a bus service to connect the divided families living there and in Skardu in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Apart from these, an average Kashmiri expects the foreign ministers to address the trust deficit between the two countries so that the tensions over Kashmir are brought down.

"It is a bold decision on the part of the Indian government to go ahead with the foreign ministers' meet despite the unfortunate developments in Mumbai," said Muzaffar Ahmad who teaches in a college here.

Triple blasts rocked the financial capital of India July 13, killing 22 and injuring over 100 people - but India did not link it to Pakistan.

"Such meetings should not end as mere formalities or as keeping an international commitment. The need of the hour are CBMs (confidence-building measures) so that tensions are brought down," Ahmad said.

"They must seriously address the issue of trust deficit between them and the rest would automatically follow," he added.

The man on the street may not be so articulate but is fully aware of the fruits of peace which alone would bring in prosperity and security in his life.

"The world has moved forward and so must India and Pakistan in their relations. I have lived so long under an all-pervading fear of violence. Time has come when we should have peace," said Zahoor Ahmad, a pavement trader in Lal Chowk.

Pakistan's newly-appointed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will meet Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in New Delhi for the bilateral talks in which issues relating to cross-border terror will figure prominently.

These talks will be preceded by a meeting of the foreign secretaries Tuesday.

The peace process between the South Asian neighbours was resumed only in February this year after a long hiatus following the Nov 26-28, 2008, attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists which killed 166 people and injured over 300.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at







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