Hailing the thaw in India-Pakistan relationship, the business communities of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan adminstered Kashmir (PaK) have called upon Islamabad and New Delhi to widen the scope of confidence building measures and strengthen existing ties.
In light of the resumption of comprehensive bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan, 23 members of the business and trading communities from both sides of Jammu and Kashmir met in Dubai from December 16 to 19 and deliberated upon future prospects of intra-Kashmir confidence building measures (CBMs).
“The group welcomed the steps taken by both governments to resume the dialogue process and hoped that Islamabad and New Delhi will take tangible steps to further strengthen trade, travel, and civil society exchanges across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir,” a joint statement said.
The meeting was also an opportunity to convene an annual meeting of key members of the J&K Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JK-JCCI), the first-ever platform of cross-Line-of-Control collaboration, facilitated by Conciliation Resources, it said.
During three-day meeting, representatives of the business community affiliated to Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber and other regional chambers and federations welcomed the steps taken by both governments to resume the dialogue process.
“The focus of the meeting was to widen the scope of CBMs and include banking facilities, telephone connectivity and undertaking trade in dollars between two sides,” Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) president Rakesh Gupta said.
As per the joint statement, members urged the governments to take urgent steps to address various obstacles encountered by LoC traders including improving connectivity among traders from both sides, facilitating frequent meetings of traders at the LoC, improving infrastructure at the trade facilitation centers and the installation of full body truck scanners, banking facilities, increasing the list of tradable items and the number of trading days, and easing customs procedures.
The members urged the governments to open new trade routes, particularly the Kargil-Skardu and Nowshera-Chammb trade routes, to expand the scope and impact of CBMs in the region, it said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Pakistan earlier this month announced the decision to hold comprehensive Indo-Pak dialogue.
The members urged both governments to expedite the facilitation of a trade delegation from Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as soon as possible in 2016.
The members appreciated the leadership of the outgoing President of the JK-JCCI, Y V Sharma, and the achievements of the JK-JCCI under his leadership over the last two years.
The members agreed to elect a new president from the PaK side before 31 January, 2016, the statement added.
The president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries and a person nominated by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry will assume responsibility as joint presidents of JCCI from Jammu and Kashmir regions respectively for the period from January 2016 to December 2017.
The members agreed that the JK-JCCI will provide greater support and recognition to the LoC trade federations as being key stakeholders in the confidence-building process and make best efforts to take steps to help them in resolving trade-related issues, it said.
They also agreed on improving communication among members of the JK-JCCI and on the formulation of a code of conduct in due course, it added.
The meeting stressed on the importance of including women in confidence-building processes and will encourage efforts to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs on both sides with a view to facilitating their future participation in trade and other confidence-building processes.
A website for the JK-JCCI to improve internal and external communication was launched, to make available to the public relevant information pertaining to cross-LoC trade and activities of the JK-JCCI.