“LoC trade raised from USD 0.3 million in 2008-09 to almost USD 100 million till 2018-2019 through exchange of more than 100000 truck loads with 960000 metric tons of permitted traded items”
Altaf Hamid Rao,
MIRPUR (AJK): Barter trade commenced across the Line of Control on 21st October 2008 which divides the internationally-acknowledged disputed Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir—on 21 st October 2008 as part of a Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan; the measure is considered one of the most significant CBMs taken by the two countries and marked a paradigm shift since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 . It has many unique features. The two governments declared Cross – LOC trade as zero tariff trade
One of the only CBMs which has been going on even in the difficult times of India Pakistan relations.
According to investigations conducted by this Correspondent, this is not surprising as the cross-LoC trade volumes have shown a substantial increase despite trade being on barter terms, lack of proper communication channels, absence of a banking system, dearth of legal enforcement of contracts and, limited number of trade days and tradable goods. LoC trade has expanded from USD 0.3 million in 2008-09 to almost USD 100 million till 2018-2019 with the help of more than 100000 truck loads with 960000 metric tons traded .
Independent trade observers say that the continuation of this trade is important and will give number of benefits
• Trade across the LoC would serve as a source of employment, especially for the local youth.
• Such linkages would also offer people on both sides an opportunity to reunite and associate with family members and friends, despite being on opposing sides of the LoC line.
• The development of cross-LoC trade should, thus, be a major prerogative of the government as this trade offers a host of economic prospects to the state, in terms of employment generation, revenue generation and, contributions to state GDP.
In order the trade increases the following needs to be done
• Increasing the tradable commodities based on non – discriminatory access .
• increasing the number of vehicles,
• promoting tourism and travel,
• fostering communication amongst people from both sides.
• encouraging greater stakeholder engagement.
• Transit trade in SE Asia.
• At a geo-strategic and micro level, the importance of LoC trade needs to be understood in the context of the free flow of trade raising prosperity levels of people on both sides of the LoC and enabling them to become key stakeholders in the peace process. At a macro level, the governments can use this as a means of mitigating the long drawn-out conflict in the region. Economic benefits have always served as a means of powerful initiative for conflict resolution.
• It is important to retain and preserve the character of the initiative. Conferences, consultations and talks focused on promoting Cross-LoC trade usually dwell on the aforementioned measures but overlook the need to make the people of Jammu & Kashmir feel that the governments recognizes the importance of this trade.
As an initiative, traders and chambers on both sides of the LoC have come up with the joint chamber called Jammu Kashmir Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industry (JKJCCI), which constitutes members of trading communities of both sides as well as local chambers of occupied Jammu & Kashmir and AJK including Mirpur Chamber.
It is one of the unique platforms and the only platform where people are represented on both sides of the Line of Control, the observers concluded. Ends