LoC Stand-off; India summons Pak envoy

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: The stand-off on the LoC entered 4th day with truckers from both sides trapped on the other side, while as India summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi and demanded release of the detained drivers.  

Both the Cross-Loc trade and bus services remained suspended, with no immediate solution in the sight for the crisis that began Friday with the reported seizure of 114 kg brown sugar from a truck coming from Pakistan controlled Kashmir at Salamabad. As many as   27 drivers from this side along with their trucks are stranded in Pakistan controlled Kashmir (PcK) while 48 drivers from PcK  apart from the one arrested are stuck on  this side. 

India summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan Tuesday in connection with the suspension of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services by Pakistan, which has demanded release of its national arrested in Uri on charges of smuggling narcotics worth Rs. 100 crore across the LoC.

Authorities in Pakistani Kashmir (PcK) on Wednesday suspended the cross-Line of Control (LoC) bus service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch sectors demanding the release of the Pakistani driver.

Earlier after the reported recovery of drugs and arrest of the driver on Friday, authorities in PcK detained 27 Indian truck drivers on their side while refusing to take back their ‘incomplete convoy’ of trade trucks.

On January 19, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Travel and Trade Authority (Tata) announced it would suspend the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Bus and Truck Service until India released the drivers.

TATA Director General (DG) Brig (retd) Muhammad Ismail said this was the second time India had spread ‘malicious propaganda’ against traders from AJK. He called for introducing a joint mechanism to avoid the suspension of cross-LoC trade.

“In the future, if authorities on either side of the ceasefire line recover any prohibited items from trucks moving across the LoC, it must be brought into the notice of the other side immediately,” he said.

“Making such claims without any proof or proper investigation will only benefit those who want to close the bus service and cross-LoC trade for good.” Brig Ismail said the manner in which Indian authorities recovered drugs from one of the trucks created doubts about the incident. “The presence of the Indian media and Anti-Narcotics Force when the recovery was made creates the impression that it was a drama planned to coincide with Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan’s talks with his counterpart in New Delhi.”

In response to a query as to why India would make ‘false claims’, the TATA DG said some elements in the Indian military did not want enhanced trade ties with Pakistan.

The DG Tata added that Indians have failed to provide proof of drug smuggling so far.

A spokesperson in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that, It was surprising that Pakistan “choose to hold hostage” trans-border trade and bus services which brings immense humanitarian benefits across the borders for the sake of saving those who indulge in drug trade. He also said the Foreign Ministries of the two countries were making all efforts to resolve the situation as early as possible.

The passenger bus service was started in April 2005 while the trade began in October 2008.

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