MHA lists 'main reasons' for suspending LoC trade

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs Friday listed alleged channeling of funds for militancy in Kashmir and supply of arms and fake currency notes to the Valley among five main reasons for suspending the cross-Line of Control trade with Pakistan via Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir.

The MHA Thursday ordered suspension of cross-Line of Control trade via Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir, with effect from Friday, following reports of alleged misuse of the trade routes by Pakistan-based elements for illegal inflow of narcotics, weapons and currency, according to officials.

According to a statement issued by the Director (Media) at the MHA’s Department of Jammu and Kashmir, the LoC trade across Chakan-da-Bagh and Salamabad was intended as a confidence-building measure (CBM) for the people living in remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir and those living across the LoC in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. “However, the third parties manipulated the trade and misused it for trading goods being produced from outside Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement read, citing “almonds produced in California finding their way through LoC trade involving a large transport network spread in many countries”.

“While charge-sheeting businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali who was the president of LoC traders’ association, he was found to be funneling money to militants, separatists and subversive elements in the Valley. The Enforcement Directorate has already attached his property worth crores of rupees and further investigations are still on.

The NIA has decoded the modus-operandi of dubious hawala transactions for militancy financing. The inimical elements on Pakistan side identify a suitable Pakistani trader firm and hand over the money that is to be transferred to the anti-national elements and militant organisations on the Indian side. Pakistani trader under-invoice the products like California almonds to the extent of money received by him (sic).

On receipt of the consignment, trader on the Indian side sells California almonds at the prevailing market price and makes extra and undue profit to the extent of under invoicing (sic),” the statement read. “Extra money so generated is handed over by the trader to anti-national elements and militant organisations in the Valley to fuel anti-India operations”.

The MHA statement read that “it has also been revealed that a significant number of trading concerns engaging in cross-LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned militant organisations, especially Hizbul Mujahideen.

Some Indian nationals who have crossed over to Pakistan and joined militant organisations have opened trading firms in Pakistan. As a result, many trading firms under the control of militant organisations are doing LoC trade with Indian traders, firms who are operated by their own relatives on the Indian side (sic)”.

“Cross-LoC trade is also being used as a regular channel of funneling of drugs such as cocaine, brown sugar and heroine into the Valley, adversely impacting the youth, thereby converting many of them into addicts of such life-threatening drugs. In a recent example, 66.5 kilogram of heroine was seized from a Valley-based consignee and the drugs came through the LoC trade”.

“The cross-LoC trade is being exploited for periodically smuggling arms and ammunition into the Valley. Numerous seizures have been made of pistols, grenades, spares and ammunition. Recently, a large cache that was concealed in a consignment of bananas was seized from a cross-LoC driver from Kulgam. In different consignments passing through LoC trade, Rs 57 lakh, Rs 20 lakh, Rs 15 lakh and Rs 7.5 lakh of fake currency notes have also been seized and over a dozen of people have been arrested,” the MHA statement read.

“In light of such large-scale misuse and loopholes being exploited for illegal and anti-national activities”, the MHA said in the statement that the “government of India has been compelled to suspend the LoC trade.

The Government will revisit the issue of resuming the LoC trade after stricter measures and systems are put in place to address these issues. New measures are expected to restore benefit of LoC trade to local population only, rather than allowing militant organisations and unscrupulous traders based far away from these trading points to siphon off the benefits and fuel instability in the Valley”.