As the cross-LoC trade and travel between India and Pakistan remains suspended for the past two weeks, officials of the two countries are meeting at the ‘zero point’ in Uri area of Baramulla on Monday to “iron out differences” hampering the repair work of the Kaman bridge which facilitates the business and people-to-people contact between the two sides.
A senior official told that the meeting, fixed on Monday evening, will be attended by officers from the civil administration and army from the Indian side.The bridge repair work is halted because the Pakistani officials haven’t given their consent to the demand that there will be no ceasefire violation while the repair work is underway, the official said.
According to an order issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government, deputy commissioner Baramulla would chair the “zero meeting” at Kaman-Post from the Indian side. Apart from the bridge repair issue, India would also seek Pakistan’s approval for exporting Kashmiri rice to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, according to the ‘agenda’ of the meeting.
The main agenda points of the meeting are: repair of Kaman bridge; crossing of vehicles across LoC by custodian; increase in number of vehicles from 35 to 70 from both sides in view of suspension of trade for the holy month of Ramdhan; quarterly traders’ zero-point meeting for reconciliation with counterparts; allowing food-grain for export and spices for import, and revival of various facilities at Kaman post.
Earlier, the cross LoC trade and bus service were suspended due to pending repair works of the bridge, according to officials.
“Due to the sustained use of Kaman AmanSetu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which require immediate repairs. Inspection of the bridge was carried out by representatives of GREF (a border roads organisation wing) supported by army engineers on March 8, 2019, which indicates that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity,” an official communication of the trade facilitation centreSalamabad, Uri, reads.
The repair work will require 10 to 15 days and the trade service will be suspended accordingly, the communication reads.
President, Kashmir chamber of commerce and industries (KKCI) Sheikh Ashiq said they have taken up the issue of prolonged closure of the intra-Kashmir trade and bus service with the concerned authorities.
“We recently held a meeting with divisional commissioner Kashmir seeking his intervention in the matter. It was after this meeting that the decision to hold a zero-point meeting with Pakistani officials was taken,” he said, adding that the chamber has always given its unequivocal support for strengthening the cross-LoC trade and travel.
Vice-president, cross-LoC traders’ association, Samiullah, said: “It is unfortunate that the government has halted this trade (from Kashmir side) for over two weeks, while it is going on smoothly from Jammu side”.
“Due to delay in carrying out the bridge repair works, we have incurred huge losses. We urge both Indian and Pakistani authorities to allow this trade to flourish,” he said.
In October 2008, India and Pakistan announced commencement of the intra-Kashmir trade between divided parts of Kashmir as a “confidence building measure”.
The cross-LoC bus service was officially launched on April 7, 2