LoC trade standoff

New Delhi : India has proposed a meeting of the official-level Joint Working Group with Pakistan on trans -LoC CBMs in the second week of February amidst continuing stand-off between the two countries over the arrest of a Pakistani driver for alleged smuggling of narcotics worth Rs 100 crore across the Line of Control.
Pakistan, through diplomatic channels, has also been asked that it “must share with us information with regard to their investigations of the ‘consigner’ of these drugs”, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said hereTuesday.
“Over the last two weeks India has repeatedly emphasised to Pakistan to allow the full resumption of travel and trade across the LoC and to hold an immediate meeting of the Trade Facilitation Officers at Kaman so that both sides can exchange information with regard to the narcotic seizures that have been made,” he said.
India has already summoned Pakistan Acting High Commissioner last week in connection with the suspension of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services by Pakistan, which has demanded release of its driver.
“All ambiguities which may have arisen in the interpretation of the Standard Operating Procedures must be removed immediately. There appears to be a mistaken perception that trucks and drivers plying the trans-LoC trade route would be granted immunity from prosecution if they indulge in criminal activities,” he said while rejecting Pakistan’s demand for release.
Pakistani authorities argue that under standard operating procedures, which guide cross-LoC barter trade, the driver should not have been arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police and instead he should have been handed over to Pakistani authorities.
He further said, “We regret the fact that for the sake of a drug trafficker caught red handed smuggling narcotics into India, the Pakistani authorities have continued to refuse to allow the resumption of trans-LoC travel and trade that brings great benefits to the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.”
Tension mounted at the Kaman post area in North Kashmir when police earlier this month detained a truck carrying 114 packets of brown sugar, valued at Rs 100 crore in international market, and arrested the driver along with two more people from Bandipore who were to receive the consignment.
Authorities in PaK then detained 27 Indian truck drivers and demanded release of their driver.
The deadlock intensified when authorities in Kashmir were informed by the PaK about suspension of bus services on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch sector.
While one driver has been arrested, 48 other drivers from PaK are also stranded at Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre since the stand-off began last week.
The passenger bus service was started in April 2005 while the trade began in October 2008.

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