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NEW DELHI: After a fourmonth hiatus, cross-LoC trade and bus service between India and Pakistan through the Poonch-Rawalkote route is likely to resume this week, government officials said.
The development follows India’s decision to approve medical visas for Pakistani nationals in “deserving” cases and also the release of prisoners and fishermen by both countries last week.
Cross-LoC trade is seen by both countries as a significant confidence building measure but it has come under the scrutiny of Indian investigating agencies in the recent past for the spurt in terror funding in J&K. Trade through the Uri-Muzaffarabad route on the LoC was also suspended for a while earlier this year after the seizure of banned drugs but resumed in August.
J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has remained committed to cross-LoC trade despite demands by local BJP leaders to shun it in the face of allegations that the facility was being used to fund terrorism.
The Poonch-Rawalkote bus service is also likely to resume on Monday after it was stopped four months ago because of firing on the LoC by Pakistani troops. “Since both sides decided to resume travel and trade at a meeting near the LoC on Friday, we are hopeful of resumption of the weekly cross-LoC bus service as per schedule on Monday,” custodian of LoC trade (Poonch) Mohammad Tanveer was quoted as having told local news agencies.
Senior civil officials from Poonch and PoK held a meeting on Friday and agreed to resume the suspended bus service and trade between the two sides. The bus service was started along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in April 2005 and the Poonch-Rawalkote route on June 20, 2006, to facilitate easier trade and travel between the divided families of J&K and PoK.
“If everything goes well and the bus service resumes on Monday, the suspended trade is also expected to resume on Tuesday,” an official said, adding it all depended on the situation along the LoC. Tanveer had earlier said that suspension of cross-LoC trade between J&K and PoK for the last 16 weeks had resulted in a loss of over Rs 80 crore.
Trade across the LoC was suspended on July 11 after heavy firing and shelling from the Pakistani side caused damage to trade facilitation centres and policebarracks.