LoC trade standoff: J&K wants Centre to intervene | india | Hindustan Times
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LoC trade standoff: J&K wants Centre to intervene

india Updated: Jan 20, 2014 19:47 IST
Shishir Gupta/Toufiq Rashid
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The Jammu and Kashmir government is seeking intervention of the Centre following a stand-off between Indian and Pakistani authorities after a major drug haul at the Line of Control, which has cast a shadow on both trade and travel between the two separated parts of the state.

Pakistani authorities have closed the border and detained 27 Kashmiri trucks that had crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to deliver goods at Chakoti trade facilitation centre under the cross-LoC trade agreement.

Even the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, which crosses over to PoK every Monday, has been suspended following Pakistan's refusal to open the border and allow free flow of traffic.

“We are seeking intervention of the union ministry of external affairs on the issue,” minister of state for home Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo said.

The confrontation started on Friday after narcotics worth `100 crore were seized by the Jammu and Kashmir Police from a truck carrying almonds for Shaukat Habib, a trader in north Kupwara's Bandipora district.

According to a news agency, local police claimed that 114 packets of cocaine and brown sugar were seized, leading to the driver's arrest. However, a Srinagar-based policeman said forensic results were awaited.
More drama unfolded on Saturday when Pakistani authorities closed the border, demanding that the driver be released. PoK authorities detained 27 Indian drivers and refused to let 49 of their own drivers pass through.

"The Pakistani demands are irrational. They want the truck and driver back, besides the seized narcotics," Kashmir divisional commissioner Shailendra Kumar told Hindustan Times. "Their demands cannot be met as the crime was detected on the Indian side," he added.

According to police, the Bandipora-based trader and some of his associates have been arrested.

A meeting held with Pakistan on Saturday also failed to yield a solution, with Pakistan remaining adamant on its stand that the arrested driver be released.

"We are in touch with Muzaffarabad DG (trade), and are trying to work out a solution," said Shailendra Kumar.

Meanwhile, home ministry sources in New Delhi have said the government might allow the Pakistani driver to be released on bail. A similar decision was taken six months ago when a small drug consignment was seized. "The situation is tricky. We can de-escalate it by allowing the Pakistani driver to go, for he may not even know about the drug deal. We have the person for whom the consignment was, and we can blacklist the company from PoK," the sources said.