Trade across LoC by next year: Govt

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Srinagar, Oct 22: The Centre today said India and Pakistan have Identified nine items for trade across the Line of Control (LoC), likely to commence by middle of the next year.

Addressing a news conference here, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said the items included carpets, rugs, chain stitch and wall hangings, shawls, embroidery, handicrafts, furniture, silk and silk products, Kashmiri fruit, spices, flowers, Kashmiri saffron, Kashmiri wazwan (cuisine), aromatic plants, fruit bearing plants and dhania and basmati rice.

He said almost 90 per cent of items proposed by the Jammu and Kashmir government have been agreed to by the two countries.

The Minister said the trade would start after a technical team from Pakistan visits India to discuss the mechanism for import and export of the identified items.

''Pakistan has agreed to allow trade of only 9 out of 14 merchandisable items through the LoC,'' he added.

Mr Ramesh said Pakistan had not allowed trade of leather items, juice, jam, honey packed food, cotton and silver through the LoC.

The Minister said that Kashmir expos would be held in London, Moscow, Dubai, Dallas and Melbourne to promote handicrafts.

He said his Ministry would favourably consider any proposal for holding a similar expo in Pakistan.

The Centre and the state government were collaborating to set up a marketing centre at New Delhi which would be dedicated to Kashmir handicrafts, Mr Ramesh added.

He said a centre would be set up in partnership between the Union government, the state government and private players.

The state government was expected to submit a proposal in this regard to his Ministry within two weeks, he added.

The Minister said the idea was to have an international marketing facility for Kashmir handicrafts.

Earlier, speaking at the first Kashmir Expo-2007 Buyer-Seller Meet here inaugurated by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr Ramesh underscored the need to have such a programme on an annual basis in the Valley. International trade calendar must now onwards project the Kashmir Expo, he added.

The Minister said the foundation of an international trade centre at Pampore would be laid next month, thus fulfilling the long- cherished dream. The project costing Rs 35 crore would be completed within 15 months, he added.

Mr Ramesh said an institute of gemnology would be set up in Jammu and Kashmir to promote training in gems and jewelry. As many as 20 youth of the state had already been trained in the job, he added.

The Minister said a team of Leather Export Promotion Council would visit Kashmir to promote leather industry and its export potential. The hide and skin available in Kashmir, especially of sheep, was rated very high in the world, he added.

While exports of the country were booming, Mr Ramesh said the condition of artisans was not encouraging.

He asked Jammu and Kashmir Bank chairman Haseeb Drabu to initiate a special social security package for artisans and also called for a change in carpet designs to meet the market requirement.

One of the criticisms of Kashmir carpet was that there was no change in its designs, the Minister said, adding the Indian Institute of Carpet Design could help in this regard.

Mr Ramesh expressed the hope that the schemes started by the government for promotion of handicrafts would help artisans besides promoting exports. He said his focus was on developing infrastructure for handicrafts.

The Minister said on October 1 this year, the US issued a public notice calling for listing of products exported to that country in which child or forced labour was involved. There was a general perception in the world that the Indian carpet industry engaged child labour, he added.

Mr Ramesh said he has called a meeting of his ministerial colleagues in labour and child and women welfare departments to draw a strategy to meet this threat.

He also called for independent social audit to see that no child labour was used in the carpet industry.

UNI

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