Citing terror, India puts LoC trade on hold

KASHMIR : TWO MONTHS after India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan, following the terror attack in Pulwama, the Union Home Ministry Thursday decided to “suspend” cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade with officials alleging “misuse” of the facility by those linked to terror outfits across the border.

“Government of India has decided to suspend the LoC trade at Salamabad and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect. 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 Home Ministry said in a statement.

“It has been brought out that a significant number of trading concerns engaged in LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organisations involved in fuelling terrorism/separatism. 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 organisations and are engaged in LoC trade,” it said.

An MHA spokesperson said the government has been “receiving reports that the Cross LoC trade routes are being misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency, etc”. Officials said the government was acting on reports from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that in order to evade “the consequent higher duty (after the MFN status was lifted), cross-LoC trade is likely to be misused to a much larger extent by Pakistan”.

On Friday, 35 trucks carrying fruit were scheduled to cross over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) from Poonch, said Fareed Kohli, custodian, LoC Trade. “However, these will not be allowed to cross the LoC tomorrow in view of the Home Ministry order,” he said. The mainstream political parties in J&K described the decision as “regressive” and “unfortunate”.

India and Pakistan started the cross-LoC trade in 2008, more as a confidence-building measure. Since then, according to the J&K government, the trade volume had touched Rs 5,000 crore by March 2018

As many as 21 products, including red chili, cumin, tamarind, bananas, mango, dry dates and dry fruits are listed for exchange between J&K and PoK in the trade that is conducted from Tuesday to Friday every week. Initially, 646 traders from J&K were registered to trade, but less than 300 were actually involved in conducting business.