MHA suspends cross-LoC trade via Salamabad, Chakan-da-Bagh

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday ordered suspension of cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan via Jammu and Kashmir following reports of alleged misuse of the trade routes by Pakistan-based elements for illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency, officials said.

An order issued by the MHA and titled “suspension of LoC trade at Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh in J&K”, read: “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 illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics and currency”.

“The LoC trade mechanism is therefore being suspended pending the putting into place of a stricter regulatory regime (sic). This is to ensure that only bona-fide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” the order, also tagged as “most immediate,” read.

India and Pakistan had in October 2008 announced commencement of the cross-LoC between the divided parts of Kashmir as a “confidence building measure”

The LoC trade, at present, was being conducted through two trade facilitation centres—Salamabad in Uri area of Baramulla district in north Kashmir, and Chakan-da-Bagh in Poonch district of Jammu province.

This trade takes place four days a week and is based on a barter system and zero-duty.

The LoC trade via Salamabad, Uri, remained suspended since March 8 for carrying out the repairs of Kaman Post Bridge, according to officials.

“Due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damage which requires immediate repairs. Inspection of the bridge was carried out by representatives of GREF (a border roads organisation wing) supported by army engineers on March 8, 2019, which indicates that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity,” an official communication had stated.

The repair work would require 10-15 days and the trade service will be suspended accordingly, it had said.

The LoC trade along the Poonch-Rawalakot route had resumed from Tuesday after nearly two weeks of its suspension.

Mehbooba, Omar flay MHA decision

Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti, and Omar Abdullah, have flayed the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ to suspend the cross-LoC trade.

“Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP. It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak 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 Pak is in the offing,” Mehbooba wrote on twitter.

“The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBM. Cross-LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt to facilitate greater people-to-people contact across the Line of Control in J&K,” the National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted.