- Centre halted trade across LoC after reports of weapon and drug smuggling
- Move was slammed by both National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party
- They said it would only make matters worse between India and Pakistan.
The central government's decision to suspend trade across the Line of Control with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has come in for scathing criticism, with Kashmir-based opposition parties alleging that the move would only worsen relations with the neighbouring country. While National Conference leader Omar Abdullah claimed that the centre was undoing every peace initiative undertaken by the former Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the BJP was using Kashmir as a "scapegoat" to make electoral gains.
The centre has halted trade across the Line of Control from midnight on the basis of intelligence reports that it was being misused by Pakistan-based elements to bring in illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency. In an order issued on Thursday, the home ministry said that cross-LoC trade would remain suspended until a "stricter regulatory mechanism is put in place".
Mr Abdullah, in his tweet, claimed that the Narendra Modi government has "buried" yet another Vajpayee-era confidence-building measure (CBM) aimed at facilitating greater "people-to-people contact" across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
The National Conference leader admitted to suspicions of some traders using cross-border trade to carry out illegal activities, but said it was something that could have been managed through a less drastic step. "It was to plug this that the state has been pleading for the installation of full-truck scanners at the trade points," he tweeted. "But rather than install these scanners, the government has taken the regressive and highly unfortunate step of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead of saving the CBM, they've decided to abandon it."
Mr Abdullah also claimed that the former Prime Minister's legacy and attempts to resolve the Kashmir issue through "insaniyat, jumhuriyat and Kashmiriyat" was being sacrificed at the altar of "opportunistic populism".
Ms Mufti was equally scathing in her criticism of the centre's move. "Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won't help BJP. It's an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this, PM Modi has dismantled a CBM initiated by Vajpayeeji. Won't be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing," she tweeted.
The cross-border trade, meant to enable exchange of goods between local populations across the Line of Control, was allowed through trade facilitation centres located at Salambad in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch. An exercise that took place on four days a week, it attracted zero duty and was based on the barter system.
Mr Vajpayee's governance is considered to be the gold standard in the BJP.