India favours immediate meeting over LoC trade standoff

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) India Tuesday expressed dismay that Pakistan continues to refuse resumption of the cross-LoC trade “for the sake of a drug trafficker caught red-handed smuggling narcotics”, and said that a meeting of trade facilitation officers should be held immediately.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India has repeatedly emphasised to Pakistan over the last two weeks to allow full resumption of travel and trade across the Line of Control (LoC) and to hold the meeting of trade facilitation officers at Kaman so that both sides can exchange information on the narcotics seizure.
“We regret the fact that for the sake of a drug trafficker caught red-handed smuggling narcotics into India, Pakistani authorities have continued to refuse to allow the resumption of trans-LoC travel and trade that brings great benefits to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Akbaruddin said Pakistan must also share with India information on their investigation of the “consigner” of the drugs.
The spokesperson said that all ambiguities which may have arisen in the interpretation of the standard operating procedures must be removed immediately.
“There appears to be a mistaken perception that trucks and drivers plying on the trans-LoC trade route would be granted immunity from prosecution if they indulge in criminal activities,” he said.
India also proposed a meeting of the official-level Joint Working Group on trans-LOC confidence building measures in the second week of February.
Authorities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir Monday refused to allow a bus from India to enter, continuing the deadlock over the cross-LoC trade and the peace bus service in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani authorities have also stopped the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad peace bus service.
On Jan 17, police and customs officials at the Salamabad trade facilitation centre in Baramulla seized 114 packets of brown sugar from a truck coming from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The truck driver and a local trader who was to receive the narcotics were arrested.
Pakistani officials first claimed the driver could not be arrested as he had diplomatic immunity. When India challenged the claim, Pakistan linked the bus services with the resolution of the deadlock. Pakistan later refused to allow the return of 27 drivers and their trucks from India.