The Foreign Office on Sunday deplored the unilateral decision by India to suspend cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade and rejected the allegations regarding its misuse.
On Thursday, the Indian government had suspended the cross-LoC trade between Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the part of Kashmir it occupies, in a move that evoked strong reactions from traders who feared the decision could force them into destitution.
Azaj Ahmed Meer, an office-bearer of the traders in Chakothi, had said that at least 1,200 traders and hundreds of other workers were associated with the activity on both sides of the LoC “who will now be economically devastated if the decision is not reversed”.
The FO, in a press statement, on Sunday said: "The Indian action is based on groundless accusations that this mechanism is being used for smuggling, narcotics, fake currency and ‘terrorism’."
According to the office, this "litany" is all too familiar and in line with New Delhi's frequent attempts to portray legitimate activities of the people in Indian-occupied Kashmir as linked to the so-called “terrorism”.
The statement added that the cross-LoC trade has been one of the functional Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries, which came about after arduous 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," said the FO.
The statement further read that the suspension of the trade added to the economic hardship of the divided Kashmiris and further squeezes the segment of people who could modestly benefit from this facility.
The FO called for restoration of the trade and urged India to refrain from taking unilateral measures. It also asked for resolving differences through constructive engagement with a view to transitioning from conflict to cooperation.
"In our view, there are better ways of dealing with issues relating to implementation, if any, than resorting to unilateral suspension of important CBMs," read the statement.
The Indian government had suspended the cross-LoC trade on Thursday. According to a notification issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the trade was suspended from both Chakothi-Uri and Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing points of the LoC 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.
“The LoC trade mechanism is, therefore, being suspended pending the putting into place of a stricter regulatory regime. This is to ensure that only bonafide trade takes place for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through this mechanism,” it added.
The unilateral decision spread fear among traders who have invested billions of rupees in the barter trade launched pompously in October 2008 as the second Kashmir-specific CBM between India and Pakistan after cross-LoC travel.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had taken to Twitter to react to the Indian move. “India had long been finding excuses to wind up this CBM because it strengthened the bonds between divided Kashmiris, which it cannot digest,” the AJK premier 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 who are fighting Indian occupation fearlessly.”
While condemning India’s decision as one taken under a “preposterous assumption”, traders also sought the intervention of the international community for its reversal.