FO regrets over decision to suspend cross-LoC trade

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Staff Report

ISLAMABAD

Pakistan on Sunday condemned the India’s unilateral decision to suspend cross-LoC trade and rejected the allegations regarding its misuse.

“The Indian action is based on groundless accusations that this mechanism is being used for smuggling, narcotics, fake currency and ‘terrorism’,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a statement issued on Sunday.

The statement added that the litany was in line with India’s frequent attempts to portray legitimate activities of people in Indian Occupied Kashmir as linked to ‘terrorism’.

According to the FO Spokesperson, cross-LoC trade between Pakistan and India has been one of the functional Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) which required relentless, diplomatic efforts. “The unilateral suspension of this Kashmir-related CBM indicates that India is seeking to reverse even the modest gains made by the two countries in the diplomatic domain. Its suspension without consulting Pakistan is deeply regrettable,” he said.

Dr Mohammad Faisal emphasised upon the consequences of the suspension of cross-LoC trade between the two countries in the form of economic hardship for the people of Kashmir. He said that the move will further squeeze the segment of people who could modestly benefit from this facility. “In our view, there are better ways of dealing with issues relating to implementation, if any, than resorting to unilateral suspension of important CBMs,” he added.

Pakistan, he said, would continue to work for facilitation and enhanced economic interaction among the people of Kashmir, who remains to be the victims of the unresolved dispute. “We urge India to refrain from taking unilateral measures and resolve differences through constructive engagement with a view to transitioning from conflict to cooperation,” the statement said.

Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) has served as a confidence-building measure and to help the local population. But tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack in occupied Kashmir.

On Thursday, India suspended cross-border trade with Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) while claiming that it was being used to funnel weapons and drugs.

The Indian home ministry claimed that it had been receiving information that ‘militant groups’ were using the cross-border route to send arms, drugs and fake Indian currency.

“Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade,” the ministry said.

It added that inquiries by the National Investigation Agency had shown a significant number of firms engaged in the cross-border trade were being operated by people with links to militant groups. However, it did not name anyone.

Trade operates on a barter system, where no money is exchanged. Indian traders export cumin, chilli pepper, cloth, cardamom, bananas, pomegranate, grapes and almonds.

Prayer mats, carpets, cloth, oranges, mangos and herbs return from the Pakistani side.