CUJ organises workshop on Cross-LoC Trade CBMs in Leh
Aug 22, 2016

The Department of National Security Studies at the Central University of Jammu jointly organised two days workshop on “Cross LoC Trade CBMs in the Ladakh Region” in collaboration with the Ladakh International Centre at Leh from 20-22 August. The workshop is supported by Conciliation Resources.

At the outset, Founder of Ladakh International Centre, Amb. P. Stobdan and the Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Jammu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two institutes for joint research activities. Prof. Aima highlighted the potential of this partnership to explore more research possibilities in the field of Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences and National Security Studies. He also promised that CUJ will able to facilitate research scholars from Ladakh region to work on the projects.

The workshop explored what are the economic potentials and technical feasibility for Cross LoC trade in the Ladakh region in terms of connectivity and infrastructure facilities. Enlightening the forum about the kinds of changes that are taking place internationally, Amb. P.Stobdan said perspectives are changing in favour of change and militarised borders need to be re-looked at.

“If Cross LoC trade took place it will be revival of exchange of goods between Ladakh and Baltistan (now PoK) which used to take place in the past. Baltistan supplied dried fruits while Ladakh supplied wool and Pashmina”, he said. A journalist from Kargil, Sajjad Hussain argued for opening of Kargil-Skardu route for trade. Sajjad has recently visited Baltistan and has seen the State of affairs with the Balti people across the LoC.

The impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese developmental activities in PoK also discussed. For Sajjad, the CPEC is totalling alienating the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as they have not been taken into confidence at all by the Pakistani Government”. Dr. Chhering, a Geologist from Jammu University observed that opening of Nyimo-Padum-Darsha road will reduce the distance of Ladakh to Dehi by 450 kms and it will change economic and trade activities drastically.

Talking about Ladakh being a trade hub in the past former minister shri. Pintoo Norbu said Ladakh was an open place until independence as trade with Central Asia and many other parts of world took place freely. He emphasised the need for a dialogue within various stakeholders of the region to dispel misconceptions about trade benefits. In almost all discussions Ladakh connectivity issue, remaining cut-off six months by surface transport etc, was seen as key to all problems.

Most of the local stakeholders emphasised the need for opening of Skardo-Kargil, Turtuk-Khapulu, and Kailash Mansarover routes, which would eventually increase the trade and economic activities of Ladakh region.
Prof. Dipankar Sengupta from Jammu University highlighted that Ladakh may not have adequate leverage on trade because of its demography but it can play a decisive role if it exploits the geopolitical developments to its advantage. He argued that India must join CPEC and take the Chinese OBOR strategy seriously, which not only stabilises the region but also benefits India’s over all trade with Central Asian countries. He observed that Pakistan may not like to open Skardu-Kargil route for Indians.

While discussing the impact of China, Dr. Jabin Jacob from Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) mentioned that Chinese has no clue on the domestic responses from PoK as well as India. For China, OBOR is an alternative land route to connect to rest of the world.

Prof. Mallika Joseph, HoD of NSS, welcomed everyone to the event and emphasized the importance of trade and travel CBMs that would the trust deficit between the communities and state.
Briefing the audience about the rationale and objectives of the workshop, Dr. J.Jeganaathan from Central University of Jammu said that the workshop aimed to consolidate the intra-regional narratives through dialogue by bringing together key stake-holders, policy makers, civil society members and various service providers.
Mr. Prasanna Ramaswamy IAS, Deputy Commissioner, Leh, P. Namgyal, former Union Minister, J.T. Namgyal, Councillor, Sonam Wangchok SECMOL, Tsering Angmo, former director AIR and Abdul Gani Sheikh also addressed in the workshop. Representatives from 14 Corps of Indian Army, ACD Moses Kunzang, research scholars, journalists and civil administrative officials attended the workshop.