Srinagar: What is impelling Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to suddenly speak in defence of trade across the Line-of-Control (LoC) and to assert that the government will resist any move to close business links between the two Kashmirs?
According to sources in the government, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is currently investigating hawala funding into Kashmir meant for what it describes as “terror activities”, had recommended in its recent report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that cross-LoC trade be stopped as it was being allegedly used as cover to route illegal money into Kashmir.
“The NIA had reported that hawala money transactions take place through cross-LoC trade. They reported that the businessmen involved in such trade were also routing money to separatist groups for anti-national activities,” an official source said.
This report was sent to the MHA after the recovery of over 66 kg of drugs worth over Rs 300 crore at the Trade Facilitation Centre two weeks ago, which led to cross-LoC trade being suspended, the sources said.
The sources added that the government resisted the move as it would have been a setback for the state.
“The Chief Minister said she will resist this move. She advocated that a better mechanism be installed to scan the trucks, and that it was not already there was no pretext to stop the trade,” the sources said. “She told the federal government about drugs being recovered from the Wagah border every other day and wanted to know why trade was not closed there.”
On July 29, the Chief Minister had said while addressing a rally at her party’s foundation day that nobody should “even think” of closing routes with Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK). “We know drugs and heroine were being smuggled. But it cannot be generalised. We should not even think of closing routes (with PaK). We will not allow that,” Mufti had said.
On August 4, the Chief Minister again demanded that historic routes across the LoC be opened to facilitate people’s movement.
“Dialogue, reconciliation and economic development in the whole region would bring an end to violence, acrimony, and most of all the miseries of people in the state,” she said.
Following her resistance to the NIA’s recommendation to close LoC trade, sources said that state officials held a meeting with PaK officials on the Aman Setu Bridge that divides the two Kashmirs and decided to resume business from August 8 in the next week.
Sources commented that it was not the first time the NIA had recommended the closure of trade routes.
“The NIA recommended the closure of routes in 2016 as well,” they said.
NIA spokesman Alok Mittal could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts, nor did government spokesman Nayeem Akhtar comment on the issue.