Govt To Strengthen Trans-LoC Trade With Pak: Home Secy

10 April 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal and Fayaz Bukhari

Jammu: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has given nod to installation of full body scanners at two cross-LoC points of Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad on Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes respectively and was expected to take decision shortly on opening cross-LoC travel to all people of the two parts of divided States instead of confining it to divided families. Top official sources told the Excelsior that Union Home Secretary LC Goyal, who is on three days visit to Jammu and Kashmir along with Rajat Punhani, Joint Secretary MHA (Incharge Jammu and Kashmir Affairs) and HK Makwaha, Joint Secretary MHA (Incharge Border Management), didn't visit Chakan-Da-Bagh but reviewed measures for easing trade and travel restrictions on Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad routes with civil and police administration including Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khandey and Director General of Police (DGP) K Rajendra among others. Sources said the MHA has considered the report presented by a high level team of the MHA that visited Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad few days back to examine feasibility of installation of full body scanners at two cross-LoC points to check smuggling of narcotics and weapons in the trucks from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) under the cover of goods. The team has given nod to installation of full body scanners at both the routes. The team comprised Sulekha, Deputy Secretary (Security) MHA (Incharge Jammu and Kashmir), D Chakroborty, Deputy Director Technical, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Kavita V Dikshit, Scientific Officers, Baba Atomic Research Centre and GK Panda, Scientific Officer, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Sources said the MHA wanted installation of full body scanners at both the cross-LoC routes and was ready to bear the whopping cost. However, since the full body scanners reflect certain harmful rays, the MHA wanted to install them at the places away from civilian habitations. The State Government has asked district administration of Poonch and Baramulla to identify locations for installation of full body scanners, where they didn't affect the local population. Apart from installation of full body scanners, the Central Government was also considering extension of cross-LoC travel facilities on both the routes to all people of the divided State. Presently, this facility is confined to divided families putting up on two sides of the divided State. 'As the issue pertained to External Affairs Ministry, the matter was expected to be taken up shortly at high level by the two countries,' sources said, adding that some decisions could also be taken to ease restrictions on cross-LoC trade like increasing list of the items, which can be imported and exported by the traders of two sides. More facilities on the agenda included ending barter system of trade and replace it with currency by opening bank branches on either side of the divided State by nationalized banks of the two countries and opening up direct communication links between traders of the two sides. Meanwhile, Union Home Secretary, L C Goyal, today said that the Government of India is keen to strengthen and expand the trans-Line of Control (LoC) trade with Pakistan. Goyal visited Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) Salamabad, Uri in North Kashmir today and chaired a review meeting with officials. He said that he will take the various issues related to the trans-LoC trade with his Pakistani counterpart during the future meetings with him. The State Government has already given a list of 72 more items that are to be traded with Pakistan through the trans-LoC trade. The Union Home Secretary said that these items will be discussed with the Pakistan and assured the officials that Union Government is keen to strengthen the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) with Pakistan including the cross-LoC trade which will be strengthened and expanded. The officials gave him detailed presentation about the drugs that were seized from a Pakistani truck early this year. Goyal asked officers at the TFC Salamabad to strictly adhere to the Standing Operating Procedures (SOP) laid down for cross-LoC Trade. He said that full body scanner that has been sanctioned for the trade will be procured soon as the tenders have already issued for that. The meeting discussed various issues pertaining to development of additional infrastructure as well as increasing the number of tradable items and improving communication facilities were also discussed. He also discussed construction of cargo hall with the officials. The officials demanded construction of a residential complex for the employees who are round the clock in the trade centre. The Union Home Secretary also met delegation of cross-LoC traders at Salamabad and assured them that the Government would make every effort to overcome the difficulties being faced by them. Ishfaq Shaheen, a tans-LoC trader said that they raised the issue of bar laid by the Custom officials on trading of Pakistan make goods. He said that the Goyal immediately issued orders to the Custom officials to stop the practice of disallowing any product of Pakistan make. 'He told Custom officials that it is a trade between India and Pakistan and trading of Pakistan make goods be allowed', said Shaheen. The traders also discussed the problems faced by the drivers who have been arrested on charges of drug trafficking. They demanded that the families of these drivers should be allowed to meet them. They also demanded that the trade should not be held hostage to criminals who are resorting to drug trafficking and said that a mechanism be evolved by which trade does not suffer due to their criminal acts. The Union Home Secretary was accompanied by Financial Commissioner Industries and Commerce, Khursheed Ganai, Director General of Police K Rajendra, Principal Secretary Home Department, BR Sharma Joint Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Inspector General of Police CID, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Director Industries & Commerce Kashmir, Senior Superintendent of Police Baramulla, Additional Deputy Commissioner Baramulla and General Manager SIDCO. The Union Home Secretary also visited the Kaman post and reviewed the facilities there.