Srinagar: The Indian government’s order to suspend trade across the Line of Control has undone one of the major Confidence Building Measures between India and Pakistan since the 1947 partition.
The trade, which runs on the archaic barter system, has currently 229 bonafide traders actively exchanging goods with their counterparts across the LoC since 2008, when two routes — Uri-Muzaffarabad and Pooonch-Rawalakote — were officially thrown open.
The suspension order has most affected these traders as they have huge liabilities pending for goods purchased from the market and also with their counterparts across the LoC.
Hilal Turki, who is leading the Salamabad Cross LoC traders association, says the order has hit them economically and it would be challenging for them to again trade goods in the future if the suspension persists.
The figures of last decade suggest that it has grown exponentially creating a beeline of jobs for more than 1.7 lakh people directly and indirectly. Besides, 70,000 trucks were engaged in the trade resumed on the Valley’s erstwhile Jehlum valley road in the Uri-Muzaffarabad and Jammu’s Poonch-Rawalakote more than 60 years after the 1947 partition. The trade through both the trade facilitation centres stood at Rs 8,476 crore.
Citing “misuse” of LoC trade routes by Pakistan-based traders, the government of India says the routes are being used for illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics and currency. Though the allegations are true as illegal consignments have been seized in past but traders were not consulted before ordering the suspension.
Turki, a trader himself, suggests that the trade should be made transparent by installing full body truck scanners, which can stop influx of any illegal consignment through the route. He also questions that illegal consignments are seized across the world at airports.
“Even at Pathankot (the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir) narcotics are seized as well,” he said. “At least they should have given us time so that we could have cleared the liabilities.”
The trade was already suspended for more than a month as the Kaman bridge over Neelam river along the LoC, which connects Kashmir with Pakistan administered Kashmir, sustained damage. “We are already suffering losses of crores due to damages to the bridge for which we apprised the authorities to speed up work. But now this order will break our back as we will suffer further losses,” Turki said.
The order has come under sharp criticism from former state chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. They blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi of dismantling the legacy of former NDA Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.
While the CBM of LoC trade was initiated during the NDA regime but the route was officially thrown open in October 2008. The trade takes place four days a week at two trade facilitation centres at Salamabad in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch. It is based on barter system and zero duty.