Relations remain strained


Cross-LoC trade remained suspended for fifth consecutive day today on Poonch-Rawlakote route, taking the losses to nearly Rs 40 crores. The Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Chakan-Da-Bagh remained deserted with no passengers and trucks for crossing over. Relations between India and Pakistan remained strained, the miseries of 119 civilians-116 from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and three from Jammu and Kashmir have piled up as they remained stranded in each other's territory for past over five weeks now due to closure of cross-LoC weekly bus service on Poonch-Rawlakote route. Last week, J&K and PoK authorities during their meeting at Kaman Post in Uri, Baramulla had agreed to send the stranded passengers of both sides to their native town from Uri-Muzaffarabad cross-LoC point. Though the weekly bus along Uri route plied this Monday, the passengers were not shifted and they remained stranded in each other's territory prompting protests by PoK citizens in Poonch. Deadlock persisted on Poonch-Rawlakote route as Pakistan army was not opening the gates at Chakan-Da-Bagh from where the bus and truck enter into PoK. Sources pointed out that heavy mortar shelling by Pakistan army on the LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri including Chakan-Da-Bagh was the major reason for stalemate on cross-LoC trade and travel.
Union Ministries have agreed to take up the matter with their Pakistani counterparts to facilitate return of stranded passengers to their home towns safely. The External Affairs Ministry has also extended stay of PoK citizens, putting up with their relatives and friends in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, beyond permissible limit of 14 days as exceptional case in view of extraordinary circumstances due to closure of gates at Chakan-Da-Bagh. Authorities on this side have already advised the businessmen, who deal in cross-LoC trade, not to send their trucks to Poonch till the matter is resolved. This was for the first time in the month of June and July when Pakistan army targeted Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Chakan-Da-Bagh by firing mortars and resorting to firing with heavy firearms, sources said since Chakan-Da-Bagh area falls within the shelling and firing range of Pakistan, authorities were not taking any chance to risk the lives of civilians and truck operators. Home Minister has not reacted to the NIA recommendation so far. The NIA has been investigating the case of terror funding through cross-LoC trade on both Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes. The trade across the Line of Control (LoC) was suspended on July 11 after heavy firing and shelling from the Pakistani side caused damage to trade facilitation centres and police barracks.

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