NEW DELHI: After renewing talks with Pakistan, India is set to expedite opening of nine routes for trade and travel across the Line of Control. The Union Home Ministry has been making efforts to first open the Jammu-Sialkot road through diplomatic channels in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs.
Besides, the government is keen on opening Jhangani-Mirpur, Mendhar-Kotli, Skardu-Kargil and Chamb-Nonian to strengthen trade ties and increase people-to-people contact. The India-Pakistan Joint Working Group in 2012 had also discussed a new land route for trade at Munabhao-Khokhrapar. Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal has recently asked for trade through two new land routes — Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur district and Sulemanki border in Fazilka district.
India is in favour of expanding trade and travel activities between the two countries and recent developments, including the NSA-level talks, are likely to provide impetus to the proposal.
On December 6, India and Pakistan NSAs held talks in Bangkok, which was followed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad on December 8. After her trip, Sushma said the government had decided to re-start ‘comprehensive’ dialogue on various subjects, including terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir.
Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security in a report in 2012 had recommended opening of nine additional routes. Subsequently, the Centre had sought comments from the State government on the issue but is yet to receive its response.