Indias safety check

first_imgThe government’s decision to suspend cross LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in view of potential misuse of trade routes by Pakistan related elements is a good safety measure. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday evening imposed the suspension with immediate effect following reports of illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency being funnelled into the country through these routes. MHA’s decision comes in the wake of NIA’s ongoing probes which have unravelled how LoC trading channels are operated by individuals closely associated with banned organisations fuelling terrorism and separatism. To this extent, it is likely that these operators are working at the behest of such banned outfits and pumping in illicit weapons to spread terror. Considering how India already retracted the most preferred nation (MFN) status following the Pulwama incident, apprehensions exist that LoC trade corridor might be extensively used to evade higher duty. MFN was certainly a boon for the trade relations between neighbouring countries and its absence must have certainly left Pakistan’s export of common goods to a standstill. The LoC trade, meant to facilitate the exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, is allowed through two trade facilitation centres located at Salamabad in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch district. As per the government’s order, trade at both the centres have been suspended indefinitely while the government prepares stringent regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in place. Prior to this, trade and travel between the two sides were suspended following heavy Pakistani shelling along the LoC on April 1 which led three fatalities in Poonch while 24 others, including five security personnel, were injured. However, it had resumed on Tuesday with trucks carrying common goods across LoC into India. But NIA’s probe must have facilitated an insightful review of the decision which has now closed all trade facilities with Pakistan. It may be argued as to why this was not the case since the day India went on a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. In all likelihood, the LoC trade routes may have been utilised to detrimental extents already. Reports received by MHA cite how “the trade has changed its character to mostly third party trade and products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route”. This means that a narrow corridor to India has been available for unscrupulous and anti-national elements to exploit. It would be interesting to see how Pakistan reacts to this development since earlier MFN and now this means Pakistan has to bear the full brunt of the incursions caused by terror outfits operating from its soil. While many may opine that this is detrimental to the relations between two nations, it is to be noted how this is the least concerning when it comes to relations. Presence of JeM on Pakistani soil was a single largest breach of trust that Pakistan has not been able to justify since it had claimed that JeM was banned back in 2002. India is wary of the potential threat to its territories, especially with the ongoing elections. But this threat could not have developed overnight. The timing of the decision attracts curiosity more than it garners apprehension. This sort of threat has been suspected for years as pointed out by Omar Abdullah and acknowledging it the state’s demand for truck scanners at trade points was floated but did not materialise. MHA’s decision cannot be criticised despite what the dissenting politicos such as Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti may feel. In a bid to safeguard borders from unforeseeable threats, the order puts several traders’ businesses in turmoil. This suspension also adds to the Pakistan policy of current dispensation which has so far projected a different outlook against Pakistan compared to the previous governments. Modi’s national security narrative gets another addition but his commitment towards mending relations with Pakistan certainly takes the back seat. What remains to be seen is whether this trade suspension helps curb whatever apprehensions MHA has cited as per NIA’s probe or does it only surface as a bold statement to reiterate Modi’s ‘nation first’ approach. As much as these safeguards would be appreciated in the light of what happened in Pulwama, it remains to be seen how they are handled to benefit the locals who have been at the receiving end of the Centre’s policies and notifications.last_img

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