India and Pakistani officials are likely to meet here next month to review Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for trade along the Line of Control in the wake of the row over arrest of a truck driver hailing from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) for allegedly smuggling 'brown sugar' worth Rs.100 crore.
Trading relations between the two countries had hit a new low following the incident at Kaman post in Uri of North Kashmir on January 17 and the traders were not allowed to cross over for over three weeks.
However, the matter was resolved and the trading began in Poonch-Rawalakaote of Jammu division on February 20 but it could not restart in Uri-Muzaffarabad road in Kashmir division as PoK authorities refused to open the gates.
Amid indications that Pakistan is willing to resume full fledged cross-LoC trade, a day long meeting was held here yesterday to finalise the agenda of a meeting likely next month, official sources said.
During the meeting, participated by officials from External, Home and Finance ministries, banks, security agencies, Army and state government, it was decided to work out ways for increasing volume of trade besides reviewing the list of items exchanged in the cross-LoC trade in the meeting with Pakistani officials.
The sources said both sides will review the latest development of the case pertaining to brown sugar seizure and work out a formula to deal with such incidents in future.
The Indian side is also likely to press for routing the cross-LoC trade through banking channels rather than the barter system being practised at present, the sources said.
The Indian side has been making concerted efforts to persuade the Pakistani side on this issue in view of the enormous increase in the volume of trade, they said.
Goods worth Rs 345 crore worth have been exported from Chakan Da Bagh side while Rs 600 crore worth of goods has been imported drom 2008 till January this year.
Goods worth Rs 1,033 crore have been exported from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad where as the import figures stood at Rs 1,680 crore during this period.
Under the present agreement, trade between the two sides happen only by exchange of goods with no money changing hands.
The two sides will also take up the issue of installation of cargo scanner at the check points so that the arduous way of checking the trucks and the cargo is minimised. The scanners will check if the vehicles are ferrying arms, explosives and drugs.
India will press for permits for people from either side for religious tourism purposes besides opening up of Gilgit-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkote roads for greater people-to-people contacts and giving a boost to trade.