New Delhi/Srinagar: Hardening its stand against Pakistan, the Indian government on Thursday indefinitely suspended cross-LoC trade at two points along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir effective Friday, after reports that it was being “isused” by elements from across the border to smuggle weapons, narcotics and fake currency.
In an official statement, the Union home ministry said orders have been issued to halt the trade at Salamabad of Baramulla in the Kashmir region, and Chakkan-da-Bagh of Poonch district in Jammu, after reports of very large-scale “misuse” of the cross-LoC trade.
“It has, therefore, been decided by the Government of India to suspend the LoC trade at Salamabad and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect,” it said. The MHA order also says the move “is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir through this mechanism”.
The duty-free barter trade across the LoC from two points — Uri and Muzaffarabad and Poonch and Rawlakote — was initiated as a confidence-building measure in October 2008. But it has been marred in controversies and was at many times hit by active hostilities between the armies of India and Pakistan along the 747-km-long de facto border.
Cross-border trade is primarily allowed through two trade facilitation centres at Salamabad and Uri in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch district. Under the present arrangement, trade takes place four days a week and is mainly based on a barter system and with zero duty basis.
Sources said Central agencies had specific inputs that the LoC trade was being misused on very large scale by some subversive elements. It has also been revealed that cross-border trade had changed its character. It was also found that products from other regions, including foreign countries, were finding their way into the Valley.
Intelligence reports suggest some anti-national elements were using this particular route as a conduit to pump in hawala money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of trade, and this was being used for terror and separatist activities in the Valley.
In the ongoing investigations of certain cases by the National Investigation Agency, it was noticed that a significant number of trading companies in the LoC trade were being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organisations and those involved in other subversive operations.
Investigations further revealed that some individuals who have crossed over to Pakistan and joined militant organisations have also opened trading firms in Pakistan. These trading firms are under the control of militant outfits and are engaged in LoC trade.
MHA sources said the trade would remain suspended till further notice and the situation was being monitored very closely.