- Centre says reports claim LoC is being misused by Pak-based elements
- Cross trade is meant to enable exchange of goods of common use
- Trade is allowed through two Trade Facilitation Centres
Trade across the Line of Control with Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir will be suspended from midnight, the government has announced, saying there are intelligence reports that it is being misused on a very large scale by Pakistan-based elements for funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.
The cross trade is meant to enable exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Trade is allowed through two Trade Facilitation Centres located at Salambad in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch and takes place four days a week. It attracts zero duty and is based on the barter system.
"The action has been taken as the Government of India has been receiving reports that the cross Line of Control trade routes are being misused by Pakistan based elements for funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency etc", the Home Ministry said in a statement.
According to a senior official in the Home Ministry, it was also brought to notice of the government that the trade has changed its character to mostly third party trade and products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route.
"Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade," he said.
The Home Ministry has also received inputs from the National Investigation Agency or NIA that many engaged in Line of Control trade are being operated by people closely associated with banned terrorist organizations involved in fuelling terrorism and separatism.
"During ongoing probe of certain cases by NIA, it has been brought out that significant number of trading concerns engaged in LoC trade are operated by persons closely associated with banned terror organisations involved in fueling terrorism/separatism,"
After the Pulwama terror attack in February in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed, the government has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation or MFN status to Pakistan.
Inputs have also been received that in order to evade the consequent higher duty, Line of Control trade is likely to be misused to a much larger extent.
Meanwhile, a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked out and will be put in place in consultation with various agencies. Whether Line of Control trade should be reopened will be revisited thereafter.
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