TRADE across Line of Control (LoC) from Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is likely to begin by July, according to Union minister of state for commerce and industry Jairam Ramesh.
"Before the SAARC meet in July we will sign the agreement with our counterparts in Pakistan. We believe that by that time there will be a new government in Pakistan," he said.
The LoC land custom station has been identified at Salamabad and Chakan-da-bagh in Poonch district. The Pakistan and the Indian governments have agreed on nine items to be traded across the LoC. These include, carpets (rugs, wall hanging, shawl embroidery),wooden work items(cricket bats and wood carving items), furniture, silk and silk products, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, Kashmir saffron, Kashmir wazwan, medicinal and aromatic plant and lastly pulses, mushroom and basmati rice.
According to Mr. Ramesh, 80% of the items have been included in the list form the original list of 14 items sent to Pakistan for trade.
Currently from Jammu and Kashmir the Rawalakot-Poonch and the Srinagar- Muzzafarabad bus service are the two links for the people of Kashmir to meet their relatives across the LoC. Traders in Kashmir had earlier been anticipating that road between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad commonly called Rawalpindi road or Jhelum Valley road would become another Wagah-Attari border.
The Indian government is also waiting for Pakistan to clear the Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkot road link. "I want to remove the word 'border' from the dictionaries and instead use the term 'connectors'," said an emoted Mr Ramesh on his maiden visit to the Wagah border on Friday.
Speaking to ET, the minister said that with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh been removed from the list of countries from where foreign direct investment was banned ,there was a strong case now developing to remove Pakistan from the list on a case to case basis. "Investment not trade will be the engine of growth in the years to come. In the fear that antisocial elements will take benefit we are blocking the way of genuine businessmen. TCS and Reliance will be more than keen to explore opportunities," he said while adding that even Mr Ratan Tata's 'Nano' car could be produced in Pakistan. The minister cleared that 100% FDI would be allowed only through the FIPB route.