Finally, the Ministry of Home Affairs has suspended the cross LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir. When India and Pakistan agreed to start this trade between two divided parts of Kashmir, it was projected as a major Confidence Building Measure between the two countries.
Both India and Pakistan had agreed to start this barter trade in 2004. At that point of time late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. However, this CBM was delayed till 2008. In September 2008, India and Pakistan issued a joint statement from New York, announcing the formal start of the cross¬ LoC trade from October 21, 2008.
During the past 11-years this trade survived many controversies. There were many people within the country, who were demanding this trade should be called off and it seems they have succeeded in driving home their point. Suspension of this trade is a “major victory” for them.
On 18 April, 2019 the MHA issued an order stating: “The Govt of India has received reports that cross LoC trade routes being misused by Pakistan based elements. The misuse involves illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics & fake currency etc. The cross-LoC trade mechanism is therefore suspended till a stricter regulatory regime is put in place. This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place, for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism.” (Greater Kashmir, 19 April, 2019).
Former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad flayed the MHA decision and termed it as “big loss” for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They said that BJP led government has buried one more CBM which was taken during the regime of the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Suspension of cross LoC trade was on cards for a longtime but Pulwama attack, which left 40 paramilitary CRPF men dead in February this year, has proved to be the last nail in the coffin of this all important CBM. Soon after the Pulwama attack India had withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and suspending cross LoC trade was in the offing.
The ties between the two nuclear neighbours have been at their lowest ebb during the past five years. Foreign policy of the BJP led NDA government has been clear that India won’t make any compromises and is in no mood to talk about any issue. In the past India and Pakistan used to hold talks through back channels but during the past five years all these channels have been suspended and no parleys are being held at any level.
Both the countries have been pushed to the edge. In absence of dialogue, guns only have been talking. Armies of India and Pakistan have been trading fire along the Line of Control and the International Border continuously. Skirmishes along the LoC have become a routine. And there seems no end to it.
The charged up atmosphere and both the countries firing salvos at each other indicate that even a small spark is enough to push both the nuclear neighbours towards a full-fledged war, which would bring nothing other than destruction and devastation.
The CBMs being called off are not a good sign. There seems bleak possibility about the leaders of both the countries taking any step towards dousing the fire and making an effort to end the 70-year old conflict, which has triggered a massive armed race in the region.
If there is no change in the status-quo it can have far reaching consequences, which can consume both the countries. Dialogue is the only way forward. Leaders have to talk to each other to make subcontinent a better place to live.
Denizens of both these countries can’t live in peace till their leaders decide to give up hostilities and bury the hatchet. Enmity won’t help anyone’s cause. It would just add to uncertainty and chaos. Leaders have to rise above the politics and act like statesmen for the sake of their people. Both the countries since 1947 have been at loggerheads with each other. This attitude has to change and CBMs need to be given a chance.
Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir.