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India says ready for cross-LoC trade

Srinagar, August 17, 2008:

New Delhi has said it is ready to start trade through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road but awaits Pakistan's willingness to implement the agreement reached in April 2005.

Blaming Islamabad for the delay in the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road for trade across the LoC, an official spokesman said New Delhi has been pursuing the matter and has suggested further cross LoC Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) which will continue to be pursued with Pakistan.

The spokesman said that the people of the State, particularly the people of Valley should not be "influenced by misleading propaganda".

The spokesman said that as part of the composite dialogue with Islamabad and CBMs, New Delhi had taken the initiative to facilitate travel of persons across the LoC along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes.

He said that in the recent discussions with Pakistan, efforts were being made to increase the frequency of the bus travel.

"To build further on these initiatives, as early as on April 15, 2005 it had been agreed with Pakistan that truck services across the LoC would also be initiated to promote trade," the spokesman said.

He said that in May 2006 Working Group on cross LoC CBMs both sides exchanged indicative lists of goods for trade.

"It was agreed that the delegations from Chambers of Commerce from either side of the LoC would undertake visits at the earliest to discuss various aspects of the trade," he said.

"It was also agreed to start the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service to facilitate cross-LoC trade in the first half of July 2006. Our list of 80 businessmen to visit was given to Pakistan in May 2006."

However, he added that the visits by Chambers of Commerce have not materialized in absence of Pakistani clearance.

During the meeting of the working group on Cross-LoC CBMs in July 2008 a number of decisions were taken to simplify cross-LoC movements like simplifying procedures for issue of travel permits and making the two cross-LoC bus services weekly.

The spokesman said that for starting the cross-LOC trade at the earliest, New Delhi proposed that trade begins immediately on the basis of the lists of items proposed by each side for import and export.

However, he added that Pakistan presented a fresh list, common for both imports and exports and certain other conditions.

"When pressed, the Pakistan delegation agreed to reconsider so that trade could proceed on the basis of the earlier agreement on the basis of agreed lists for import and export of both sides," he added.

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