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Kashmir business plans to take Uri Road to Pak
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes the opening of the road could revolutionise business and trade for the strife-torn state.
From ZAHOOR MALIK
DH News Service,SRINAGAR:
With the decks almost cleared for the reopening of the historic Uri-Muzaffarabad Road, Kashmiri entrepreneurs are planning to send a business delegation to Pakistan to explore its market for Kashmiri goods.
“The Uri-Muzaffarabad Road is our gateway to the world. We can not only explore the market in Pakistan but in other parts of the world, particularly the Central Asian countries. Once the road is formally open we are planning to send a high level business delegation to Pakistan to explore the market there for our goods. They will look into all pros and cons of trade, business and commerce in that country,” said Mauzam Bakshi, Secretary-General of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
Mr Bakshi noted that there has been no official word on the reopening of the road and the business community was closely monitoring the situation.
“We are currently dependent on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway because it is our corridor to the external world. It is not an all weather road and remains closed due to landslides in winters. On the other side, the Uri-Muzaffarabad Road is an all weather road and it can be another corridor for Kashmiri traders to the outside world,” he said.
Kashmiri handicrafts, dry fruits, readymade garments and Gucchi mushrooms are the main items that are exported to other parts of the world. Kashmiri handicrafts worth Rs 550 crore were exported in 2002-03. These include carpets, shawls, papermache items and chainstich.
Walnut worth Rs 141 crore was exported and around 8,000 kg of Kashmiri Gucchi mushrooms were exported to European countries last year.
Central excise figures show total customs duty collected on Kashmiri exports stood at Rs 215 crores last year.
Dr Bakshi said when the Uri Road is functional, new vistas would be opened for the Kashmiri traders and businessmen. “We will have a unique kind of trade. We can trade with Pakistan and through that country we can export our goods to the markets in Central Asia including Uzbekistan and Tajkistan,” he said.
The 313-km Srinagar-Kohala Road (in Muzaffarabad, PoK) was the first and main means of surface communication between Kashmir and the rest of the world. It is presently operational till Week Bridge — the footbridge that falls in no-mans-land on the LoC.
The road was a revelation. Within one year of its opening imports touched Rs 66 lakh and exports Rs 65 lakh.