Former Chief Ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have accused the Modi government of dismantling the peace legacy of the Vajpayee era by indefinitely suspending the cross-LOC trade with Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK). Mehbooba went a step further by saying that the Modi government’s move would “worsen ties with Pakistan despite their peace overtures”.

The union home ministry had, on Thursday, ordered the suspension of trade through both cross-LOC points, Poonch in Jammu and Uri in Kashmir, following reports of Pakistan based elements misusing these routes to push in weapons, narcotics and fake currency. A stricter trade regulatory regime would be worked out before the trade is resumed, said the government order.

Reacting to the issue, National Conference leader, Omar Abdullah, in a series of tweets said; “The Modi Govt buries another of the Vajpayee era CBMs. Cross LoC trade was a legacy of the Vajpayee Govt decision to facilitate greater people to people contact across the Line of Control in J&K.

“Sadly Vajpayee Sahib’s legacy of cross LoC CBMs & the resolution of the Kashmir issue within the framework of “insaniyat, jumhuriyat & Kashmiriyat” is being sacrificed at the altar of opportunistic populism.

“Rather than install the scanners the Govt has taken the regressive & highly unfortunate step of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead of saving the CBM they’ve decided to abandon it”.

Mehbooba too was critical of the suspension as she tweeted; “Using Kashmir as a scapegoat to claw its way back to power won’t help BJP.  It’s an excuse to worsen ties with Pak despite their peace overtures. By doing this PM Modi has dismantled a CBM Initiated by Vajpayee ji Won’t be surprised if an attack on Pak is in the offing”.

It is worth mentioning that the cross-LOC trade introduced 11 years ago in 2008 has been in rough waters as incidents of Pakistani elements misusing the CBM to smuggle a cache of arms and ammunition, narcotics and fake currency for terrorists in Kashmir have come to light from time to time.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had some time ago reportedly asked the government to stop the cross-LOC trade. However, Mehbooba Mufti, who was the chief minister at that time with the support of BJP, did not let this happen.

Narcotics worth about Rs 300 crore was seized in 2017 from a truck that had come to the Salamabad trade point in Kashmir from the POJK. The trade was suspended for a few days after the incident and as a precautionary measure, the government banned 34 POJK companies from participating in the trade.

Thereafter, a cache of arms and ammunition consisting of a Chinese pistol, two pistol magazines, 14 rounds of pistol ammunition, four AK magazines, 120 AK ammunition and two Chinese grenades were recovered from a “camouflaged cavity” of the truck that had arrived from POJK. The consignment was to be delivered to some terrorists.

In another incident, police recovered 10 kg of narcotics from a Pakistani truck in Uri.

The Cross LoC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote routes was started on 21 October in 2008 as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM). 21 mutually agreed items were being traded through these routes. The state government, in 2016, recommended addition of another 21 items in the trade list.

The PDP-BJP government had also recommended to the centre to open seven additional trade routes and two additional contact and meeting points with POJK. However, these recommendations have not been accepted so far.