- Title: PAKISTAN / INDIA: India, Pakistan open trade across Kashmir frontier
- Date: 22nd October 2008
- Summary: (W2) NEAR THE LINE OF CONTROL, KASHMIR, PAKISTAN (OCTOBER 21, 2008) (REUTERS) OFFICIALS STANDING OUTSIDE BRIDGE SARDAR ATTIQUE AHMED KHAN, PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTANI KASHMIR WITH OFFICIALS SARDAR ATTIQUE AHMED KHAN RELEASING PIGEONS OFFICIALS PRAYING OFFICIALS STANDING ON BRIDGE (SOUNDBITE) (English) SARDAR ATTIQUE AHMED KHAN, PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTANI KASHMIR, SAYING: "This event is a great event, history is in the making. This is known as celebration. We have declared this day as a day of commerce. So I congratulate the Kashmiris on both sides of the line of control, and both the governments and leaderships of Pakistan and India." CARS LINED UP PAKISTANI SECURITY GUARD/INDIA SIDE SECURITY IN BACKGROUND PAKISTANI GUARD SECURITY POST ON INDIA SIDE
- Embargoed: 6th November 2008 09:06
- Topics: International Relations,Economic News
- Reuters ID: LVAEKHJ3HT0ZN543KXJ93U4BPA57
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Trucks loaded with apples, onions and nuts crossed the frontier in divided Kashmir for the first time in decades on Tuesday (October 21) as nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan opened a trade link aimed at easing tension.
The decision, taken only last month, to allow limited trade across the front line in Kashmir symbolises attempts to solve a bitter dispute over the Himalayan region by creating "soft borders" allowing the free movement of goods and people.
"This event is a great event, history is in the making. This is known as celebration. We have declared this day as a day of commerce. So I congratulate the Kashmiris on the both sides of the line of control, and both the governments and leaderships of Pakistan and India," Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, told reporters.
The excitement on the Pakistan side was matched by the Indian side of the old ceasefire line and the de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LOC).
"This is a step towards Jammu and Kashmir becoming a key economic trade zone. I also think that this step is very important from the point of the solution of Kashmir's issue. Today, this day brings a loud message of peace and development for both Kashmirs and this region," politician Mehbooba Mufti, chief of Indian Kashmir's People's Democratic Party told reporters.
But officials cautioned against hopes the opening of trade across the Line of Control would lead to a quick solution of the more than 60-year dispute over Muslim-majority Kashmir.
The South Asian neighbours who claim Kashmir in full but rule in parts have fought two wars over the region and were on the verge of a third in 2002 before pulling back from the brink.
It was the first time vehicles had been allowed across the ceasefire line and the newly constructed Aman Setu, or Peace Bridge, since a 1948 war.
Lorries are expected to drive a few kilometres inside rival territory and unload.
"We are very happy and want it to continue," said Pakistani truck driver Mazhar Naqvi as he crossed into the Indian side.
The opening of trade in Kashmir is the latest in a series of tentative peace moves that have done little to resolve their central territorial dispute, which has hobbled regular trade across their international border further south for decades.
But it does go towards meeting one of the demands of separatist groups in Indian Kashmir, who have been leading months of anti-India protests, some of the biggest in years.
India has moved slowly on opening up Kashmir's borders, believing that they could boost separatist militant attacks on Indian forces from bases in Pakistan. Militants have been battling security forces in Indian Kashmir since 1989.
A bus service connecting Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital, and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, was launched in 2005, one of many confidence-building measures undertaken since the two sides began a peace process in 2004.
But because of elaborate security checks, suffocating bureaucracy and mistrust, only 9,000 passengers have travelled between the two sides of Kashmir on the "peace bus" service.
For the time being, trade will take place just once a week, with a limited list of goods allowed.
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