Trade with Pakistan on Poonch-Rawalakot route picking up

Thursday, 28 May 2009, 06:45 Hrs
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Jammu: Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan is picking up through the Poonch-Rawalakot route, officials say. The trade route was opened last October.

"Until December 2008, it was just the exchange of fortnightly goods as gifts. But the real trade is now picking up," Mohammad Afzal Bhat, deputy commissioner (DC) of Poonch, told IANS over phone.

From January this year, items worth 51.6 million came to Poonch from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, while the traders from the Indian side sent items worth 15.7 million during the period, Bhat said.

The items sent from the Indian side comprised fruits, vegetables, shawls, carpets and kidney beans, while from the Pakistan-administered side came Peshawari footwear, dry fruits, women's garments, garlic and rice.

Officials said the garlic was a popular item among Indian traders, but the agriculture ministry banned it in early May following the detection of a pathogen infection.

Until the ban came into force May 11, about 38,000 bags of garlic had been imported into India this year, they said.

Bhat said traders from both sides are also bringing non-indigenous items to the Chakan-da-Bagh border point in Poonch to take advantage of the custom-free trade there.

"For example, Pishori footwear coming in is not being made there and likewise coconut going from here is also not local," he said.

The local authorities have now sought clarification from the commerce ministry on whether the items being traded through Poonch should be local or not.

"After getting a formal nod from the ministry, we will make it compulsory that every trader has to carry a certificate of origin for their products," Bhat said.

At present, Pakistan sends more items as the demand for their products is high in the Poonch area, traders said.

"It seems there is less demand for Indian items on the other side," said Mushtaq Ganai, a Poonch businessman.

There are many divided families living in Poonch and Rawlakot on either side of the LoC. It was this that prompted the authorities to open this route in November 2005 for people.
Source: IANS
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