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LoC trade may figure in Indo-Pak talks

February 20, 2010 20:30 IST

Committed to discuss only terrorism, India may also broach the issue of the across-Line of Control trade and other confidence building measures for Kashmiris during the foreign secretary-level talks here with Pakistan on Thursday.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram gave this indication to Jammu and Kashmir Peoples' Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, who came calling on him to New Delhi on Saturday to point out bottlenecks bringing the trade between two Kashmirs with much fanfare coming to almost a grinding halt.

Chidambaram assured Mehbooba that the government was keen to resolve the traders' problems of lack of facilities and may push with Pakistan foreign minister to allow opening of branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for trade purposes.

Sources said that the Reserve Bank of India is sitting on the J&K Bank's application for opening a branch in Muzaffarabad, capital of PoK, as it has to be reciprocal allowing a Pakistan bank to have its branches in India. The RBI did not agree for permission to a bank suggested by Islamabad initially for opening branches in Srinagar and Jammu, the sources added.

Chidambaram assured Mehbooba to better the infrastructure facilities at Salamabad and Poonch trade centres to facilitate more across-LoC trade.

She also complained that the across-LoC bus travel, started back in 2005, has also lost sheen due to severe security and cumbersome procedures as very few people are now taking the bus service.

She said the government's decision to allow surrender of Kashmiri youths to return home from PoK would gain credibility only when he liberalises existing travel facilities for ordinary citizens as divided families continue to suffer due to cumbersome procedures.

A Correspondent in New Delhi
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