Pakistan, India to open cross-LoC trade in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Oct 21, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Pakistan and India are to open trade across the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, a step aimed to ease recent strains between the two rival countries.

The trucks, carrying stipulated commodity items, will cross the cease-fire line for the first time since the two countries were divided 61 years ago and fought two of three wars on the Kashmir issue.

The trade route will be functional on Tuesday between Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Srinagar, capital of India-administered Kashmir. The other Rawalakot-Poonch route will be formally open later this month.

Reports said a total of 21 items have been approved for import and export by the Joint Working Group of the two countries. Fruits, kidney beans, honey, spices, walnuts and almonds will be sent to Pakistan while rice, spices, rock salt, dry dates and raisins will be imported to India.

Under an agreement, trucks will cross the LoC twice a week and no customs duty would be imposed on the traded goods.

Trucks from the two sides will cross the Aman Sethu bridge, or Peace bridge, at the LoC, and be unloaded in the designated points.

Pakistan and India decided to open the trans-Kashmir trade last month when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN assembly.

This can be seen as the first confidence-building measure since the new Pakistani government took office seven months ago.

The two countries had launched bus services in Kashmir in 2005, one year after they began the peace process.