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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

India, Pakistan to resume trade

Toufiq Rashid  Srinagar, February 18, 2014
First Published: 20:54 IST(18/2/2014) | Last Updated: 21:28 IST(18/2/2014)

Cross-LoC trade between the two divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to resume from Thursday, almost a month after a major drug haul by Indian authorities from a truck carrying goods from Pakistan had resulted in a stand-off between the two countries.

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The decision was taken at a meeting on LoC on Tuesday evening. "Officials have decided that trade will be resumed from Thursday," said Shailendra Kumar, divisional commissioner of Kashmir.

Negotiations at diplomatic and other levels led to the decision. The meeting was called to end the deadlock. Pakistani authorities  had agreed to not insist upon the release of the driver apprehended with Rs. 100 crore-worth brown sugar. The brown sugar was being carried along with almonds for a trader in Bandipora in North Kashmir on January 17. "No preconditions were set. Pakistan did not insist on the release of the driver as the case is in court. Trade, however, will resume on the same standard-operating procedures," Kumar added.

Government has issued a notice to traders, and trucks are likely to cross the LOC on February 20. Though officials at Salamabad trade facilitation centre are satisfied with the security grid, they say checking will need to be more stringent. "All the traders have been informed. The trucks will come to the LoC tomorrow, but will cross over on Thursday," said Showkat Ahmad Rather, the trade centre's custodian.

"Our security mechanism is in place; that's why we could detect the narcotics. But, we will increase manpower to make it foolproof," he added. PoK authorities had suspended trade and travel between the divided parts of Kashmir on January 17, after the drug seizure. The driver of the vehicle, a resident of Muzafarabad, Mohd Shafiq Awan was detained, following which the bus service was also suspended, leaving many stranded on both sides.

Soon after, PoK closed the border and demanded immunity for the arrested driver. The standoff left 75 drivers --- 48 from PoK and 27 from India --- stranded on the other side of the LoC as Pakistani authorities refused to let them return to their hometowns. The arrested driver's bail application would come up for hearing at a Kashmir court on Wednesday. Awan is in judicial custody.
 
The bus service was, however, resumed on February 3 and the stranded trucks were allowed to cross over on February 12. Cross-LoC trade takes place between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad through the Kaman Post on the Indian side in Baramulla, as also through Poonch-Rawlakote route via Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing-over point in Poonch district of Jammu region.

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