The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sounded an alarm that the cross LoC trade has been used for funding subversive activities in Kashmir Valley. The investigating agency after probing the role of various separatist leaders on funding protests in the Valley has hinted that the trade carried out at two places along the LoC will also be probed thoroughly.
The NIA’s assertion that trade along the LoC has been used to fund subversive activities as of now holds no water. On the face of it, it seems that the war cry by the agency has more to do with mere rhetoric rather than facts. The cross LoC trade is being termed as the mother of all the CBM’s that have ever been announced by the two governments of India and Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir.
The cross LoC trade that was initiated in 2008 is carried out along two routes presently. Uri- Muzaffarabad in Kashmir Valley and Poonch-Rawalakot in Jammu Division. At both these places Trade Facilitation Centres have been built on both sides but no attention was provided to using better and sophisticated tools for scanning and checking of vehicles.
On the Indian side, the Facilitation Centres are located at Chakan da Bagh near Poonch and Salmabad near Uri. The trade initially was allowed only twice a week but has now been enhanced to four times a week. A total 100 truck loads are exchanged per trading day. The trucks are checked manually to ensure that they do not contain any prohibited material. There is only one X-ray machine for screening of parcels. As per estimates, trade worth about Rs 30 million per day takes place between the traders on both the routes.
The LoC trade not only helped in providing employment to many youth in this as well as the other part of the Kashmir but it was successful in developing a sizable peace constituency in the Kashmir narrative.
The trade has also benefitted the trading community on both sides due to the land-locked nature of the region. However, since it is a barter trade, it is based purely on trust and good faith. Presently, there are more than 300 registered traders who carry out the trade on regular basis.
The trade activity though still at a nascent stage, needs to be regulated fully as during the times of hostility between the two warring neighbours, cross LoC trade can be an ice breaker.
For this the state government can ensure that the trade activity is carried out and all such loopholes that can have an adverse impact on it are plugged. The state government can ensure that full-body truck scanners at cross-LoC trading points in Jammu and Kashmir, should become operational by end of this year.
Even though the finalisation of contract for full-body truck scanner and delivery of the equipment is to be completed in next two months, the construction of infrastructure required for the installation of the facility should be expedited and the facility should be up and ready by the end of this or the next month.