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MUZAFFARABAD: The Indian government on Thursday suspended intra-Kashmir trade in a move evoking strong reaction from the outraged traders who said it was bound to reduce them to destitution.

According to a ‘most immediate’ notification issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the trade was suspended from both Chakothi-Uri and Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing points because of the alleged misuse of these routes by unnamed elements in Pakistan.

“The government of India has received reports that cross-LoC trade routes in Jammu and Kashmir are being misused by Pakistan-based elements. This misuse involves inflows of illegal weapons, narcotics and currency,” read the notification, a copy of which was also available with Dawn.

“The LoC trade mechanism is therefore being suspended pending the putting into place of a stricter regulatory regime. This is to ensure that only bona fide trade takes place for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it added.

The unilateral decision sent shockwaves among the traders who have invested billions of rupees in the barter trade, launched pompously in Oct 2008 as the second Kashmir specific confidence-building measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan after cross-LoC travel.

Decision sends shockwaves among business community who have invested billions in barter trade

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider took to Twitter to react to Indian move.

“India had long been finding excuses to wind up this CBM because it strengthened the bonds between divided Kashmiris which she cannot digest,” he said.

“Secondly,” he added, “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a message to the extremist Ind­ian voters that he will go to any lengths to punish the Kashmiris, figh­ting Indian occupation fearlessly.”

While condemning India’s decision under a “preposterous assumption,” traders also sought intervention of the international community for reversal of suspension.

“The LoC travel and trade were initiated by India and Pakistan on the persuasion of the international community. Now when India has suspended this activity on flimsy grounds the international community should step in once again,” said Azaj Ahmed Meer, an office-bearer of the traders in Chakothi.

He said at least 1,200 traders and hundreds of other workers were associated with this activity on both sides of the LoC “who will be devastated economically if the decision is not reversed”.

Advocate Pervez Ahmed, a migrant from Kashmir valley doing trade from Chakothi, pointed out that Kashmir Valley was a landlocked area with Srinagar-Jammu and Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highways only routes connecting it with the outside world.

Earlier, India had stopped Kashmiris from using Srinagar-Jammu highway for two days a week and now it has blocked Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route for them by suspending the trade, he said.

According to him, suspension of barter trade was bound to worsen economic woes of Kashmiris.

“It obviously means that India wants to create a famine-like situation in the Valley to force the Kashmiris into giving up their legitimate strug­gle,” he said, asking Islamabad and international community to take stock of the situation on an urgent basis.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019