A truck driver removes tarpaulin from the back of a truck at the Bara Bazar market in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. (Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg)

India Suspends Cross-LoC Trade With Pakistan

Hardening its stand against Pakistan, India indefinitely suspended trade at two points along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir effective Friday, following reports that it was being “misused” by elements from across the border to smuggle weapons, narcotics and fake currency.

In an official statement, the Home Ministry said orders have been issued for halting the trade at Salamabad of Baramulla in the Kashmir region, and Chakkan-da-Bagh of Poonch district in the Jammu region, after reports of very large scale “misuse” of the cross-LoC trade.

“Meanwhile, a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked out and will be put in place in consultation with various agencies. The issue of reopening of LoC trade will be revisited thereafter,” the statement said.

Immediately after the announcement, political parties in Jammu and Kashmir termed it an “election gimmick”.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, “All these years, we have been pressing for a whole-body truck scanner. Instead of going for that, they have shut down the trade completely”.

He said the cross-LoC trade was a legacy of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was carried forward by his successor Manmohan Singh.

“I am surprised that while claiming himself to be follower of Vajpayee ji, the Prime Minister is doing exactly opposite. He should have honoured his words and deeds,” Omar said.

Congress member and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “This is purely an election gimmick. The BJP is feeling that the ground is slipping under its feet and now they are desperately looking at further polarising the Lok Sabha elections”.

Also read: India, Pakistan, Kashmir: We Won’t Need To Fight A War If We Can Win The Peace

Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won't help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pakistan despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayee ji. Won't be surprised if an attack on Pakistan is in the offing."

She was referring to confidence-building measures initiated by the former PM.

The four-day-a-week trade is meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. It is based on barter system and works on zero-duty basis.

The home ministry statement said that reports have been received that the LoC trade is being misused on a very large scale.

“It has been revealed that the trade has changed its character to mostly third party trade and products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route. Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade,” it claimed.

It said that during ongoing investigations of certain cases, the NIA has found a significant number of trading concerns engaged in the LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist outfits.

“Investigations have further revealed that some individuals, who have crossed over to Pakistan, and joined militant organisations have opened trading firms in Pakistan. These trading firms are under the control of militant organizations and are engaged in LoC trade,” it said.

Also read: Pakistan Says No Terror Camps Exist On 22 Locations Shared By India Post Pulwama Attack