Trade Across LOC Resumes After 20-day Hiatus

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MUZAFFARABAD: Six goods trucks from Pakistani side crossed into Indian side of Kashmir on Tuesday, an official said, ending a 20-day halt in trade sparked by deadly army clashes earlier this month.

The convoy, carrying onions, dates and dried fruits, crossed the Line of Control (LoC) shortly before midday.

Traders on the Pakistani side complained that the closure of the key crossing point had cost them 30 million rupees ($300,000) following the flare-up, which left five soldiers dead.

Brigadier Ismail Khan, the director general of Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Trade and Travel Authority (TATA), told AFP that six trucks had gone to the Indian side at the Titrinot crossing.

An official handling the cross-LoC trade at Chakan-da-Bagh in Poonch district said that Indian trucks could not go to the Pakistani side due to late security clearance. 

“The trucks can cross LoC between 10 a.m. and noon, but trucks from India got delayed during security clearance. They are lined up at trade and facilitation centre at Chakan-da-Bagh and will go to the Pakistani side tomorrow,” he said.

Trade takes place from Tuesday to Friday every week. Goods worth Rs.2 crore are traded every day with about 25 trucks crossing over. The trade was halted Jan 10 when Indian officials said Pakistan did not open gates for the trucks at Chakan-da-Bagh.

“It is a great feeling to see the cross-LoC trade resume on Chakan-da-Bagh-Rawalakot route as this is not simply trade but it carries sentiments of people of this area,” said Pawan Anand, president of cross-LoC traders association in Poonch.

Cross-border trade has been encouraged in recent years as a means to improve relations between the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Kashan Masood, the head of the traders’ association in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said the recent disruption had hit business hard.

“We had placed orders for tomatoes and other vegetables from India. They were rotten and we suffered a loss of 30 million rupees,” he said.

“We are always at risk that our business will suffer whenever tension starts on (the) LoC. We are doing this business at our own risk as we don’t have any guarantee from the authorities.”

The clashes, which began on January 6, prompted fears that tensions between the two countries could escalate, but a ceasefire agreement on January 16 between commanders from both armies has held.

A cross-border bus service also resumed on Monday. The route from Poonch on the Indian-administered side to Rawalakot on the Pakistani-administered side was opened in 2005 to enable members of divided families in the region to meet up. Agencies

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