India, Pak may finalise truck trade across LoC

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New Delhi, May 19: India and Pakistan are likely to finalise trade across the Line of Control (LoC) by allowing truck service on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route when the Foreign Ministers of the two countries meet in Islamabad on May 21, sources said here today. The two countries will formally launch the fifth round of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) and review the four meetings held so far.

The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries will also hold discussions tomorrow on various aspects of the CDP, including peace and security besides Jammu and Kashmir. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmoud Qureshi to discuss ways to move the CDP forward. This will be the first contact between India and the new government in Pakistan after the elections there in February.

India has already made arrangements and built infrastructure for the operationalisation of the truck service, a long standing demand of the business communities from both sides of the divide.

Godowns and the customs office have been constructed on this side of the LoC. Double-laning of the road stretch between Baramulla and the Kaman Post near the LoC had also been completed. The truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad had been delayed due to lack of adequate response from Pakistan, mainly because of the internal political developments in that country.

The preparedness on the part of India could be gauged from the statement of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who asserted that New Delhi was ready for the cross-LoC trade to start even tomorrow, if Islamabad agreed.

''India has done everything required to open the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad road for trade...the ball is now in Pakistan's court,'' Mr Azad had said in Uri, about 70 km from Muzaffarabad.

The cross-border bus service, named as Karvaan-e-Aman (Caravan of Peace), was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi from Srinagar on April 7, 2005, after nearly 58 years following an agreement between India and Pakistan to allow families, separated since 1947, to meet each other.

The 170-km Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, also known as Jhelum Valley road, was closed for traffic on October 27, 1947, when 'Kabailis (tribesmen)' invaded parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which later came to be known as PoK.

UNI

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