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How a Rs 300-crore drug haul has disrupted India-Pakistan trade via Kashmir

Police have recovered a stash of heroin from the cavity of a truck coming from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and bound for Salamabad on the Indian side.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2017 09:09 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
India-Pakistan trade,Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,Kashmir
The barter trade in which no money changes hand but only goods are exchanged by local population on either side has been a unique initiative in force since 2008.(PTI File Photo)

A drug bust resulting in the seizure of about 66 kilograms of heroin worth an estimated Rs 300 crore has disrupted the India-Pakistan border trade operated wholly on a barter system since 2008 between the two neighbours.

Police in Kashmir recovered the huge stash of heroin from the cavity of a truck coming from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and bound for Salamabad on the Indian side. The driver was arrested and the truck seized, prompting both countries to cease the barter trade across the Line of Control (LoC).

India, however, has resumed the trade since August 8 and is continuing to send some trucks laden with goods across the border. Pakistan though has stopped reciprocating, demanding that the driver be freed immediately. On Friday, nearly a month after trade ceased, Pakistan sent a jeep carrying goods more as a tokenism. Indian traders sending trucks across are hoping that Pakistan will relent and start sending the goods in exchange.

The barter trade in which no money changes hand but only goods are exchanged by local population on either side has been a unique initiative in force since 2008 as a key confidence building measure (CBM) between the two often-quarrelling neighbours.

The trade took place four days a week at two places: One on a route connecting Uri in India to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan and the other linking India’s Poonch to Pakistan’s Rawalakot.

Indian officials, however, are pushing for an early resumption of the trade. “From our side, we are committed to continuing the cross-LoC trade, which is a CBM, within the parameters of a proper security system. As far as the case of the arrested driver is concerned, it will reach its logical conclusion through a trial,” Sagar D Doifode, the sub-divisional magistrate of Uri and the custodian of the cross-border trade, said.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has also strongly argued for restarting the barter trade. “There are many difficulties through the Wagah border… charas and ganja come from there but no one talks about closing it. Just because a mistake happens on the Uri-Muzaffarabad road, we should not talk about closing it. We will not allow that to happen,” she said at a rally in Srinagar recently. She said there should be proper banking facilities and scanners at the check-points to facilitate the trade.

State director general of police, SP Vaid, has also called for stricter precautions to be put in place to prevent the barter trade from being misused by unscrupulous elements. “Full body truck scanners (FBTS) are to be installed soon and efforts are on to implement certain other security measures,” he said.

Indian authorities, meanwhile, have barred Pakistan-based trader Anjum Zaman and 34 firms owned by him from participating in the barter trade hereafter. The truck carrying the drugs was part of a consignment sent by a company owned by Zaman.

Hilal Turkie, president of the Salamabad cross-LoC traders’ union and a trader himself, said bringing transparency and better monitoring were key to securing the barter trade, under which a trader from the Indian side “exports’ an item worth a certain amount across the LoC and his counterpart there sends back goods worth an equal amount.

The goods that are exchanged have to be from a list of 21 items mutually accepted by both sides.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 14:17 IST