The modus operandi adopted by Pakistan to hoodwink India is surprisingly a simple strategy – Under Invoicing. And divert the ‘surplus’ profit to militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. According to people in the know, traders in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) have been taking recourse to this practice with official patronage…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
India has every reason to laugh at the Pakistani theatrics over suspension of cross LoC trade route in Jammu and Kashmir. Chest beating and hate-spewing, are not new to Pakistan where India is concerned. Ducking the core question – in this case smuggling of arms and weapons to Kashmir valley – is the standard practice with its eyes set on misleading the global opinion and presenting India as the villain.
Pakistan wants the world to believe that the Indian move would stand in the way of Kashmiris from carrying out their legal activities. The only ‘legal’ activity in Kashmir that the Rawalpindi based GHQ Shura that controls the Islamabad based puppet rulers recognize is militancy and terrorism. Any Kashmiri from the valley who even remotely speaks well of India, for them is an Indian ‘agent’ worthy of denouncement.
Where did India say that it is bringing down the shutters on the cross LoC trade, which has been allowed for over a decade as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM). New Delhi clearly and unambiguously stated that cross LoC trade would be resumed after a stricter regulatory mechanism is put in place to help bona fide traders and to check illegal activities like smuggling of arms and ammunition for terrorists.
Well, this very formulation has upset Pakistan and made it cry ‘help, help’. Because the LoC trade suspension denies it a facility it was using almost from day one of the opening of inter-Kashmir trade in October 2008 to export terror to India along with fake currency, weapons and narcotics. The trade has a heavy involvement of men and families with alleged links to militants. India appeared to overlook it in the hope that the prosperity from trade would help in changing the mindset of the former militants or their sympathisers. This has not happened. In fact it proved to be a misplaced optimism.
The modus operandi adopted by Pakistan to hoodwink India is surprisingly a simple strategy – Under invoicing. And divert the ‘surplus’ profit to militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. According to people in the know, traders in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or the so called Azad (Free) Kashmir have been taking recourse to this practice with official patronage. Most of these traders have ‘divided’ families. Many of them are also known to be former militants or sympathetic to the Kashmiri separatists and the militants. In fact, as many as 40 families of ‘former’ militants are said to be engaged in the cross LoC trade.
There are over 20 Kashmiri products that are listed for bilateral trade at two points —Uri and Chakan da Bagh on the LoC. Volumes have increased along with the demand for more items. From a little over Rs one crore in 2008 to over Rs 3 crore. The figure does not look very impressive, though. Indian traders using the international border at Attari (near Amritsar, Punjab) say that a lot of ‘non-Kashmiri’ products are being illegally exchanged through the LoC trade.
The opening of the LoC trade was preceded by opening of a bus route between the two sides of Kashmir; Pakistan, then ruled by the dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf was not very enthusiastic – about the LoC trade and the bus service as well. Musharraf regime felt that the two CBMs would undo its domestic policy of spreading paronia, and nurturing animus towards India among its population. On the Indian side, some analysts felt that Pakistan could misuse the LoC trade route to aid and abet its policy to export terror to India. But New Delhi brushed aside their concerns and preferred to let the goods- laden trucks roll out hoping for the best. This optimism did not allow cross LoC trade to be suspended even after 26/11 – Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) mayhem in Mumbai in Nov 2008.
Seven years later in 2015, however, trucks coming from the Pakistani side were found carrying narcotic drugs and other contraband. And the trade was suspended. Like now, then also, Pakistan refused to accept the Indian charges. Amidst theatrics designed to attract world attention, then, just as now, Pakistan thundered that ‘thousands’ of Kashmiris on either side of the LoC, are ‘devastated’ by the ‘arbitrary’ decision of India. Pakistan remained obstinate. And the suspension lasted 40 days because Pakistani leadership showed no concern for the ‘devastated’ traders, till public pressure forced its act.
2016 also saw suspension of LoC trade for three months. That was because of violence in the wake of killing of terrorist Burhan Wani. The point is suspension of cross LoC trade is not new. Nor are the reasons for such a decision by India. This problem will persist as long as a facility designed as a CBM is misused. The ball is truly in Pakistan’s court.