India urges Pakistan to resume trade, travel across Kashmir LoC


India Tuesday regretted that trade and travel across line-of-control ( LoC) in Kashmir was stalled after the arrest of a truck driver on charges of smuggling narcotics and urged Pakistan to resume the trade.

The trade and travel remains suspended between India and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for the past 11 days.

"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," India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

Pakistan stopped the movement of trucks and buses between divided Kashmir following the arrest of a truck driver from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on January 17 at Salamabad trade facilitation center in Uri town. Indian police said the driver was carrying narcotics worth US dollars 18.5 million hidden in his truck.

The officials from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir rejected Indian claim and demand to release the driver. They have stopped more than 25 trucks from Indian-controlled Kashmir from returning, besides halting weekly bus service cross LoC.

Officials from across Kashmirs have been meeting to end the deadlock but with little success.

Around 50 truckers from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir are also stuck on this side.

"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," Akbaruddin said. "Pakistan must also share with us information with regard to their investigations of the 'consigner' of these drugs."

India has also proposed to Pakistan to hold a meeting of officials in the second week of February.

"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," said Akbaruddin.

The impasse has come at a time when both India and Pakistan were trying to boost bilateral trade.

The cross-LoC trade between the divided parts of Kashmir was started in 2008. The trade since then is going on barter pattern.

The trade takes place four times in a week through the Salamabad centre in Uri and Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point in Poonch, close to LoC.

At present only 21 listed items are traded which include fruits, vegetables, pulses and handicrafts.The trade across LoC is a duty free trade. It neither falls in the category of international trade nor does come under the purview of domestic trade.

LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts.Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.