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Cross LOC Trade Between J&K and POK

The Delhi-Lahore bus service was started to during the Vajpayee government as a Confidence Building Measure-CBMs. However, a series of setbacks such as the Kargil War and the attack on the Indian Parliament led to the suspension of the bus service which was later resumed in 2006. The bus services from Srinagar Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkote were inaugurated on April 7, 2006 and June 20, 2006 respectively. Cross LoC trade between J&K and PoK began amidst a lot of fanfare on October 21, 2008. However, trading activities have been interrupted on several occasions because of the lack of proper support structures like banking channels and communication. Despite hurdles, however, trade across the LoC continues in basic items like pulses, dry fruits and footwear.

On completing two years in October 2010, the total volume of cross LoC trade of imported goods was 26,443 tones and more than 7,400 trucks loaded with goods crossed the 'Aman Sethu' (peace bridge), which connects J&K with PoK at Kaman post. Initially, restricted to only 21 items, the list has been extended to include 33 items by the two countries. According to media reports goods worth Rs 2.94 billion have been traded on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route ever since trade began between the two sides of Kashmir. 33 Later reports estimated that cross-LoC trade through the Chakan-Da-Bagh-Taitrinote entry point along the Poonch-Rawlakot route touched Rs 69.5 million in one week in late November 2010.34 J&K government has requested the central government for opening of more trading points including Tatapani, Balnoi, R.S. Pura-Sialkot, Keran-Bimbergali and Kargil-Skardu.

The cross LoC trade offers an opportunity for India to develop its soft power approach towards people in PoK who have been living under the unlawful control of Pakistan over the years. Such initiatives could be crucial in forging ties between people on both sides. The cross-LoC exchange has also raised the hopes of the Kashmiris of being able to live together in harmony with their brethren across the border. The cross-LoC trade and bus service are a modest beginning towards integrating Kashmiris on both sides. If India succeeds in blunting the edge of separatist politics in J&K through democratic means and ensures clean, transparent and responsive governance in J&K, it can lead to a domino effect in PoK.





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