Srinagarimages (15):  Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti today said more cross-LoC points will be opened in Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate greater movement of people and goods across the borders in the region. She said the Government of India has also agreed to set up banking and communication facility to boost the cross-LoC trade.

“The State Government has taken up the matter regarding opening of more cross-LoC points with the Centre and I am sure there will be positive movement forward on the issue as serious discussions are on in this regard,” the Chief Minister informed the Legislative Council while intervening during the reply to a question regarding the measures taken by the Government to expand the ambit of cross-LoC travel and trade.

Ms Mehbooba said during her recent meeting with the Union Home Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, she pitched for opening of Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Kargil-Skardu, Nowshera-Mirpur, Gurez-Astoor-Gilgit, Chhamb-Jourian and some other cross-LoC routes in Jammu and Kashmir. “The confidence building measures like opening of more cross-LoC points will not only help consolidate peace efforts but also boost local economy through increased tourism activities in these areas,” she said.

Ms Mehbooba said the Government of India has also agreed to facilitate banking facility for the cross-LoC trade to institutionalize the existing mechanism. “To begin with the trading will be done in dollars which is a neutral currency,” she said and expressed the hope that the move would go a long way in institutionalizing the cross-LoC trade.

Ms Mehbooba said unfortunately no substantive measures were taken by the previous governments in the State and the Centre to build on this major confidence building initiative and expand the ambit and scope of the cross-LoC travel and trade. “Ironically, not even the buses deployed in April 2005 for carrying cross-LoC passengers were changed by the previous regime,” she said and added it was only after the present government assumed office that new Volvo buses were deployed on Srinagar-Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh sectors.

The Chief Minister said the Government is also planning to promote border tourism activity in the State in a big way. “Given the typical geographical advantage of Jammu and Kashmir, we have immense potential for developing and promoting border tourism activity in the state to attract high-spending tourists for an enriching experience,” she said and added that measures have already been taken to build requisite infrastructure for border tourism at Suchetgarh, Chamlyal, Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh. “We want to develop Suchetgarh as another Wagah and during my recent meeting with the Director General BSF, I flagged the issue of holding march past at the border point the way it is being done at Wagah in Punjab,” she said.

Earlier, replying to the main question raised by MLC, Ms Shehnaz Ganai, Minister for Industries and Commerce, Mr Chander Parkash, said the Government has taken various steps to encourage the cross-LoC trade and travel at Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh.

The Minister said goods worth Rs 1496.96 crore were exported through Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh route between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2016. Similarly, he said, items worth Rs 1307.62 crore were imported through Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh route during the past three years.

The Minister said to boost the cross-LoC trade, establishment of banking facilities at Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh trade facilitation centres has been approved by the State Government and the same has been conveyed to the Government of India.

He said the development of Chakan-da-Bagh and Salamabad crossing points has been proposed by the Tourism Department under Integrated Border Tourism Circuit Jammu and Border Tourism Circuit Kashmir under Prime Minister’s Special Package.

The Minister said single entry permit and triple entry permit are presently in vogue to facilitate cross-LoC travel.

Ghulam Nabi Monga, Surinder Choudhary and Surinder Ambardar raised supplementaries to the main question.

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