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In control

January 29, 2013

The clashes along the Line of Control, the first of which took place on January 6, prompted fears that tensions between Pakistan and India could escalate, but a ceasefire agreement on January 16 between commanders from both armies has held.

Another attempt to ease the tensions saw trade resuming between the two countries via the LoC. Six Pakistani trucks containing goods crossed into Indian-administered Kashmir on Jan 29, ending the 20-day halt in trade. The resumption is being taken positively by the two countries’ business community, especially after as traders on the Pakistani side have complained that the closure of the key crossing point had cost them 30 million rupees ($300,000) in the wake of the flare-up at the de facto border, which left five soldiers dead.

Head of the traders’ association in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Kashan Masood, said: “We had placed orders for tomatoes and other vegetables from India. They were rotten and we suffered a loss of 30 million rupees. We are always at risk that our business will suffer whenever tension starts on (the) line of control. We are doing this business at our own risk as we don’t have any guarantee from the authorities.”

To what extent do you think the two governments as well as their armies take into consideration losses in terms of trade on the macro level as well as day to day business on the individual level for the working classes in both countries? Do you think some sort of safeguards should be provided to traders as well as transporters to continue their activities even in times of tension?

The latest development leading to trade resumption comes with the reopening of the Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point connecting Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir. More than 135 stranded and other passengers travelled across the LoC on Jan 28 from the crossing point following its reopening after three weeks.

Pakistani-administered Kashmir’s Trade and Travel Authority Director General Brig (retd) Mohammad Ismail regretted that cross-LoC travel, which had been described as “mother of all confidence-building measures”, had become fragile and dependent on the soldiers stationed on the line of control.

Ismail who says he wants trade and travel to flourish also bemoans the fact that the confidence of “both travellers and traders has become shaky” in the wake of such incidents that have been followed by suspension of day to day business and activity.

Is not providing security measures to travellers also part of a healthy and constructive cross-cultural relationship? Can consistent tourism, business, and trade across the LoC increase the exchange of ideas and nurture the level of trust between the two countries?