LAHORE: The Indian government on Thursday suspended the cross-LoC (Line of Control) trade between the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the part of Kashmir it occupies, in a move that evoked strong reactions from traders who feared the decision could force them into destitution.
According to a notification issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the trade was suspended from both Chakothi-Uri and Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing points of the LoC because of the alleged “misuse of these routes by unnamed elements in Pakistan”.
“The Government of India has received reports that cross-LoC trade routes in Jammu and Kashmir are being misused by Pakistan-based elements. This misuse involves inflows of illegal weapons, narcotics and currency,” read the notification according to media reports.
“The LoC trade mechanism is, therefore, being suspended pending the putting into place of a stricter regulatory regime. This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it added.
The unilateral decision spread fear among traders who have invested billions of rupees in the barter trade launched pompously in October 2008 as the second Kashmir-specific confidence building measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan after cross-LoC travel.
“India had long been finding excuses to wind up this CBM because it strengthened the bonds between divided Kashmiris, which it cannot digest,” the AJK premier said.
“Secondly,” he added, “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a message to the extremist Indian voters that he will go to any lengths to punish the Kashmiris who are fighting Indian occupation fearlessly.”
While condemning India’s decision as one taken under a “preposterous assumption”, traders also sought the intervention of the international community for its reversal.
“The LoC travel and trade were initiated by India and Pakistan on the persuasion of the international community. Now when India has suspended this activity on flimsy grounds, the international community should step in once again,” said Azaj Ahmed Meer, an office-bearer of the traders in Chakothi.
He said at least 1,200 traders and hundreds of other workers were associated with the activity on both sides of the LoC “who will now be economically devastated if the decision is not reversed”.