India halts Kashmir cross-border trade with Pakistan

NEW DELHI • India has suspended cross-border trade with Pakistan-controlled Kashmir because it was being used to funnel weapons and drugs, said the government, in a further crackdown in the volatile territory.

Trade across the Line of Control, or the heavily militarised de facto border that divides the two parts of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, has served as a confidence-building measure and to help the local population.

But tensions between India and Pakistan have run high, ever since a Pakistan-based militant group claimed responsibility for bombing a security convoy in Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the middle of a tightening election race, ordered air strikes on a suspected camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group in north-west Pakistan, prompting a retaliatory air raid by Pakistan.

On Thursday, the Indian Home Ministry said it had been receiving information that militant groups were using the cross-border route to send arms, drugs and fake Indian currency. "Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade," said the ministry.

It added that inquiries by the National Investigation Agency had shown a significant number of firms engaged in the cross-border trade were being operated by people with links to militant groups, but did not name anyone.

Soon after the attack on the Indian security convoy, India withdrew most favoured nation status from Pakistan, accusing the neighbour of not doing enough to rein in militant groups operating from its soil.

 
 
 

Pakistan denied any involvement in the attack.

The Indian government said on Thursday that it believed that following the withdrawal of favoured status, more goods from Pakistan could be routed through the cross-border channels in Kashmir to avoid the higher duties.

"It has, therefore, been decided by the government of India to suspend the Line of Control trade at Salamabad and Chakan da Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect," said the government, referring to the points from which the trade took place.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'India halts Kashmir cross-border trade with Pakistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe