Who needs CBM’s
Another low in the Indo-Pak relations was witnessed on Thursday when Srinagar and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats were going to polls. The Union government announced the suspension of cross LoC trade with Pakistan from both the routes Salamabad and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir.
India claimed that the route was being misused by elements from the neighbouring country to smuggle illegal weapons, drugs and fake currency and said that a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked and the issue of the reopening the trade routes will be revisited once they are implemented.
It has been more than ten years now that the Cross-LoC trade was started between the two divided parts of Kashmir valley. The aim was to bridge the gap between the people living on the two sides of the divide. This move was started in October 2008.
Considered as the mother of all confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan, the trade could not however, grow beyond the barter system.
The trade though purposed to get the people of the two regions involved in wider interactions, it could not prove beyond an ornamental measure as lack of efficient banking and communication facilities and attempts by some vested interests to use this route for their selfish needs and purposes meant that the trade could not move beyond a point.
Although more than 600 traders are registered for the cross LoC trade and 21 items are on the approved export and import list from both routes, the trade link failed miserable to meet the target it was intended for.
Cross LoC trade was an initiative to bring people from the two sides of the Line of Control (LoC) together. Though it seemed to be an utopian idea as not many had imagined that people from one side of divided Jammu & Kashmir could travel to and trade with other side.
But with opening of Uri-Muzaffarabad and ChakaN Da Bagh-Poonch routes, we saw the unthinkable happen. It facilitated coming together of divided families and initiating and strengthening the trade ties between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
But since its inception, the run has never been smooth for the initiative. Both the travel as well as trade has been witnessing suspension several times. Most of the times, while the escalation along LoC would trigger such suspensions, we eventually saw the same trade and travel paving way for tempers to cool down on both sides.
The trade however, proved a life-size CBM as it could have proven to be a game changer among the two nations and the two divided parts of Kashmir region.
But with the suspension of LoC trade for an unlimited period of time and even the travel routes being curtailed, the future of the relations between India and Pakistan has once again hit a dead end.
The measure to allow the trade to continue and flourish was in the better interests of the people in Kashmir as well as India and Pakistan and now that hostility has taken precedence over friendship, the relations have taken yet another hit.