M A I N   N E W S

Guns remain silent
BSF men, Rangers exchange sweets
Tribune News Service

Cdr Rajesh Gupta of the BSF exchanges sweets with Col Nadeem of the Pakistani Rangers on Id at the Suchetgarh border in Jammu on Wednesday.
Cdr Rajesh Gupta of the BSF exchanges sweets with Col Nadeem of the Pakistani Rangers on Id at the Suchetgarh border in Jammu on Wednesday.  Photo by N.R. Sharma

Jammu, November 26
Security personnel of India and Pakistan exchanged sweets on Id today after the ceasefire began yesterday.

The BSF, which guards the international border along the districts of Jammu and Kathua, said no firing was reported from anywhere. Sources in Poonch and Rajouri stated that there was absolute calm on the Line of Control (LoC).

The Commandant of the BSF, Mr Rajesh Gupta, and Colonel Nadeem of the Pakistani Rangers exchanged sweets and baskets of fruit at Suchetgarh and Samgral.

Mr Gupta said there was no firing since last night.

Meanwhile, reports of heavy exchange of firing before the ceasefire came into force were received from Bhawani sector, Fatwal, Chamblyal, Bar Galad, Suchetgarh, Kullian and Faquira Chak.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, at the Idgah ground on Id-ul-Fitr on Wednesday.
The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, at the Idgah ground on Id-ul-Fitr on Wednesday. Photo Sarbjeet Singh. 

While addressing a congregation at the Idgah here today, the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed, described the ceasefire as a good omen for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He said there could not be a better Id gift for the people of the state.

Later, while talking to mediapersons, the Chief Minister hoped that the talks between the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and the separatists would commence soon, paving way for lasting peace in the state.

On the other hand Mr Bhim Singh, chairman of the Panthers Party, has described the ceasefire announced by Pakistan as trash, aimed at gaining time to send Pakistan trained terrorists across the border.

SRINAGAR: Id-ul-Fitr was celebrated on Wednesday throughout the Kashmir valley and Ladakh region with religious fervour and gaiety.

People offered thanksgiving prayers at Idgahs, Jamia masjids, open fields and mosques across the valley.

However, the main functions were held at the Hazratbal shrine and historic Jamia Masjid, where thousands of people joined the special prayers.

At some places BSF personnel, celebrated Id in the city for the last time as they would be replaced by the Central Reserve Police Force, were seen greeting people and distributing sweets.

Official sources said special arrangements were made at different detention centres for detenues to offer prayers.

WAGAH: It was retreat ceremony with a difference on Id-ul-Fitr on Wednesday. The anti-India and anti-Pakistan slogans, which used to mark the ceremony were found missing.

Mr D.K. Sharma, Commandant, BSF, received a packet of sweets and fruit basket from his Pakistani counter-part. Lieut-Col Sher Zaman. Mr D.K. Sharma added that the Pakistani Rangers did not implement the informal agreement in toto between the two commanders in the morning and made some provocative gestures in the evening. He said the BSF had conveyed displeasure to the Pakistani Rangers in this regard. However, Pakistani Rangers agreed in principle to stop the provocative actions from tomorrow.

Meanwhile, villagers of the border belt have welcomed ceasefire and expressed relief over the improvement in the relationship between the two estranged neighbours.



Ceasefire brings hope to traders
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, November 26
Buoyed by the ceasefire announced by India and Pakistan, local exporters are hopeful that Indo-Pakistan trade would commence after revival of land and rail service from here to Lahore.

Today, many exporters greeted their Pakistani counterparts on Id-ul-Fitr on the telephone, hoping that early resumption of trade links would improve the economic scenario of the region. Mr Om Parkash Arora, chairman of the Indo-Pakistan Chambers of Commerce said his business friends in Lahore were hoping that they would soon be able to meet frequently to promote trade ties.

Local businessmen who had been trading with Pakistan for the past many decades had been praying for an early resumption of trade ties, which has a potential of more than Rs 400 crore. The snapping of road and rail link had come as a bolt from the blue importers and exporters of both the countries after the attack on Parliament in December 2001.

The exporters said the Amritsar-Lahore was best trade route which could prove to be highly beneficial and economical. They said at present whatever little trade was between the two countries, it was through Mumbai or via Dubai which increased the costs considerably. The freight costs cuts into their profits. Moreover, perishable goods, including vegetables, could not be shipped.

Mr Arora said while the cost of tomatoes in Amritsar was Rs 8 per kg in Lahore it is sold at an exorbitant rate of Rs 50. Similarly, there was a great demand for green chillies, ginger, potatoes and other fresh vegetables in Pakistan. He said the resumption of trade through the land-route would help in export of vegetables, which would benefit the Indian farmers, as they would be able to get better prices.

During 1999-2000, India exported goods worth Rs 300 crore through Amritsar route. It doubled to Rs 625 crore during the year 2000-01. He said during that year India had imported large stock of sugar from Pakistan to meet the shortfall. Besides sugar, India imported dry dates, crude drugs, rock salt and other items while the local traders sent soyabean, tyres and machinery parts, dyes, condiments, spices, green tea, oil cakes, besides other items.

During their meetings in India, members of the Pakistan Chambers of Commerce had also pinned their hope on the resumption of trade links through the Wagah/Attari border, which would usher in an era of prosperity.

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