MUZAFFARABAD: The intra-Kashmir trade through the two crossing points on the Line of Control (LoC) may meet a tragic fate as Indian officials have refused to accept items which they allege are not from Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
On Aug 29, Indian authorities at their trade facilitation centre in Salamabad, on the other side of Chakothi, returned two trucks from AJK carrying mangoes, saying that the produce belonged to Pakistan, and not Azad Kashmir.
The decision caused anger not only here but also among traders on the India-held side. They went on a strike on Sept 3, saying the standard operating procedure (SOP) had no mention of the origin of a product.
The same day, Indian officials conveyed to their counterparts in AJK that trade could not be carried on for some time because the traders on their side had gone on a strike.
On Wednesday, the AJK Trade and Travel Authority (Tata), which deals with intra-Kashmir trade and travel, sent a written request to officials on the other side for a meeting at the Kaman Bridge on Monday to sort out the issue.
On Monday, Tata Director General retired Brig Mohammad Ismail himself went to the crossing point at 10.30am, but no one turned up from the other side.
In the afternoon, Ehsanul Haq, custodian of intra-Kashmir trade at the Salamabad centre, met Azad Kashmir’s Trade Facilitation Officer Basharat Iqbal and handed him a copy of a ‘notification’ from India’s Central Board of Excise and Customs, stating that the goods which had their origin in Pakistan, and not in AJK, could not be allowed to be traded across the LoC.
Talking to Dawn, Brig Ismail said he was disappointed by the attitude of the Indian government as it was returning even those goods which both sides had included in the list of 21 tradable items.
He said everybody knew that the two parts of Kashmir were not producing most of those items in bulk and they were coming from India and Pakistan.
“But while imposing restrictions on us, they want us to accept whatever they send from there,” he said.
The DG said that since the trade was on a barter basis, it could hardly be carried forward with such an attitude by the Indian authorities.
“Returning trucks laden with fresh fruit and vegetables simply means inflicting huge losses on traders from this side,” he said, adding that the AJK authorities had never returned a single truck from the other side.
He said the events unfolding over the past few weeks suggested that the Indian government was looking for excuses to shut down this activity.
“We want this trade to continue, but on the basis of equality and mutual understanding.”
The trade across the Line of Control is conducted four days a week — from Tuesday to Friday.