By-Mohd. Yousuf Ganaie,22 Oct :The much awaited trade relations between the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir resumed after 61 years as 13 one tonne load carriers dressed tastefully crossed the Kaman Post Bridge near LoC. The Jammu & Kashmir Governor, Shri N. N. Vohra flagged off the fleet of 13 load carriers from Salamabad Uri towards Chakoti in PoK. The load carriers were laden with fresh fruit while one of them carried variety of items including Kashmiri spices, walnut, honey and pulses, which had been cleared for cross LoC trade by the governments of India and Pakistan. The resumption of the trade link is another milestone in strengthening the relation with Pakistan and has brought smiles to the faces of ordinary citizens.
The Srinagar – Muzaffarabad or Jehlum Valley road was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1890 and was a link for trade between Srinagar and Rawalpindi via Muzaffarabad. This was the only alternative to the Jammu – Srinagar cart road via Banihal at that time. Before the construction of Jehlum Valley Road there was no dependable surface link between the Valley and rest of the country. The Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road remained in use till 21st October 1947 and was closed for traffic when the war between India and Pakistan erupted as the tribals raided Jammu & Kashmir State. After 1947 the road was used off and on with permission from both sides up to 1965, but since the war of 1965 it was totally closed for all types of traffic and movement.
Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah vehemently demanded opening of this road for bringing the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir closer pending a final and lasting resolution of the Kashmir issue. However, it could not materialise and it was only in 2003 when the coalition government of the state pursued the matter vigorously. The Central Government raised the issue with Pakistan and after extensive deliberations, it was agreed in principal that the road would be opened as an effective Confidence Building Measure (CBM).
It was in October 2003 when the then External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha announced at a press conference in Delhi that the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has mooted along with other CBMs with Pakistan, opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. The bus service was formally launched by the present Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh from Srinagar on April 7, 2005.
The demand for starting trade through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote routes was raised with the start of the bus service and many sections of the society across the LoC approached both the governments to resume the trade relations between two parts of Jammu & Kashmir. The CBMs paved the way for the opening of the traditional routes across LoC for trade purposes.
The starting of Trans LoC trade is being appreciated by almost every quarter in Kashmir and it will definitely help in taking forward the CBMs and the comprehensive dialogue process between India and Pakistan. People in Kashmir, especially the traders aspire that the cross LoC trade should open the markets of central Asia through Silk Route for Kashmiri handicrafts, fruit and condiments including saffron.