Something about cross LoC trade
The suspension of cross Line of Control trade has come as a disappointed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as it was seen as a potent confidence building measure (CBM) between the two neighbouring countries – India and Pakistan. The traders, on either side of the divide may be upset for the economic reasons but for commoners it was beyond economics – a step aimed at bridging the gaps between the people of divided J&K like that of Cross LoC bus service. As the peoples’ and traders’ concerns are genuine, fact of the matter is that there existed certain loopholes in the entire process that somehow where killing the basic purpose of the facility.
To begin with, while commenting on the issue, one has to understand that the step was taken by two neighbours who have a 70-year long history of hostility as a baggage and therefore it was an extremely sensitive step that should have been planned and executed with the similar sensitivity. But certain instances, that were reported during the trade, indicate that the desired seriousness was missing from one or the other side. On Feburuary 28, 2019, as per police records, one Chinese pistol, two pistol magazines, four AK-47 magazines, three hand grenades and ammunition were recovered from a truck traveling from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to this side at Salamabad, Uri. Earlier, Jan 17, 2014, one kilogram of Brown Sugar was recovered from a truck from Pak, on the same route. The incidents were enough to indicate that there was something wrong with the mechanisms adopted but nobody took it seriously.
Even the genuine traders used to raise concerns about the whole practice suggesting that though the facility was initiated to benefit the traders in particular and common masses in general of the divided J&K, the real players were pulling the strings sitting somewhere else. There was a buzz about substitution of specified items with non-permitted items and also about the under-evaluation of goods traded. Timing of the trucks was not strictly followed and no attention was given to the overload of cargo which would result into revenue loss of taxes. The genuine traders also used to express concern that there was no regular maintenance of balance sheets by several traders thus leading to the suspicion of misappropriation of funds. Instances of import-export of third country goods to avoid customs duty too had come to the fore and also issues about substitution of specified items.
In this backdrop, one would suggest that instead of stopping the trade, the government on our side should adopt a fool-proof robust mechanism that would not allow any misappropriation of the trade and would ensure that the entire process is fair and transparent. For that, the government of India should deploy sufficient trained and professional manpower on all the entry and exit points to keep a keen eye on the happenings. Computerization of the entire process and declaration of the items involved in transactions should be made in advance to eradicate doubts on this account. Need is to put a mechanism in place to check instances of import-export of third country goods. And most importantly full body scanners need to be made available at both the facilitation centres at Salamabad and Chakan Da Bagh. These steps and others, which government may deem fit, need to be taken very urgently to ensure that the trade, that benefits the people of divided J&K, is restored at the earliest.