Pak offers talks with India on intra-Kashmir trade

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Islamabad, Sept 5 : Pakistan has reportedly offered to open intra-Kashmir trade, i.e between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, as soon as possible and hold a meeting in Islamabad in this regard.

According to Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir extended the proposal to Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal in a meeting held at the Foreign Office last evening.

"Pakistan's proposal is in pursuit of the agreement-in-principle already reached at the foreign secretary-level talks on July 21, 2008 held in New Delhi," The News quoted the spokesman as saying.

According to diplomatic sources in Islamabad, the agreement was only "in principle" while reports from New Delhi claimed that Islamabad had been dragging its feet on the issue.

Initially, India proposed that the cross LoC intra-Kashmir trade should be started immediately on the basis of the lists of items proposed by each side for import and export. Pakistan, however, presented a fresh list, common for both imports and exports, and certain other conditions.

When pressed, the Pakistani delegation agreed to reconsider it so that trade might proceed on the basis of the earlier agreement. Other reports spoke of Pakistan's suspicions that in the guise of the cross LoC trade, New Delhi was trying to send in Indian goods not necessarily the Kashmiri items.

So far, there has been no reaction from New Delhi on Pakistan's latest proposal and it is expected that the Indian high commissioner would convey the message to his government before a formal reaction.

Allowing greater intra-Kashmir trade is not a new proposal and dates back to the time of the Pervez Musharraf regime when significant progress was made when Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri was at the helm of affairs at the Foreign Office. However, the new PPP government is giving it greater importance and from the very beginning PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has laid emphasis on trade with India and gave intra-Kashmir trade top priority.

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