This week marks seven years of trade across the militarised Line of Control (LoC). As the anniversary is celebrated those involved question if it is time for the governments to take this trade to the next level.
On both the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir, traders, business people and civil society commemorate the anniversary of a process of trade across the LoC which has brought benefits to numerous Kashmiris across the divided region.
The governments of India and Pakistan opened up the LoC for limited trade in 2008 as a 'confidence building measure' to create trust after seven decades of violent conflict. It has brought tangible economic benefits to both traders and wider communities along the LoC.
Furthermore, it is connecting people across cultural and physical divides; providing greater security for people living near the LoC; and bringing people who are usually excluded, such as former militants, into the broader peace process.
The first ever cross-LoC institution, the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries, has been the symbolic lynchpin of the process. It is an umbrella institution with membership of business chambers and trade associations from both sides. It supports the trade process and advocates for more effective trade policies.
While celebrating the fact that trade has sustained for seven years through various political upheavals, Joint Chamber representatives also passed a joint resolution calling upon governments to do more to support the trade.
It’s not only trade now, it is an expression of emotions and interests and binding of relationships.
Khursheed Meer, President of the LoC Trade Union Chakothi
In this highly volatile political context, this trade initiative is evidence of something that is working that both governments can get behind. It is the only positive initiative that has sustained through very strained India-Pakistan relations.
Tahir Aziz, Conciliation Resources’ South Asia Programme Director
We appreciate the governments’ frequent attention but are waiting for policies to translate into practical reality. Infrastructure and ease of access are two priority issues.
Y V Sharma, President of the Joint Chamber
The following film about the trade process, Emotional capital: building peace through trade has been released this week to commemorate the trade anniversary. This is the final film in a trilogy supported by Conciliation Resources and jointly made by filmmakers from either side of the LoC in Kashmir who are unable to meet in their home region.