Final round of talks on resumption of trade scheduled for Tuesday

The fortnight-long stalemate over the cross-Line of Control trade and travel in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to end early next week.

Informed sources told The Hindu on Thursday that after a series of interactions between Indian and Pakistani diplomats, it was agreed that the cross-LoC bus service would not remain hostage to the standoff over the arrest of Mohammad Shafiq Awan, a truck driver from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, in Uri earlier this month.

“Hopefully, the bus will operate on Monday, both through Uri in Kashmir and Chakan-da-Bagh (Poonch) in Jammu. This part of the crisis has been resolved,” said a highly placed bureaucratic source.

He said the Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla and the head of the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC), Salamabad, Uri, would meet their counterparts at Aman Setu, on the LoC, to hold “possibly the final round of talks” on resumption of trade on Tuesday.

Director-General of Trade and Travel of the PoK Government Brig. (retd.) Ismail Khan, who has closed the entire cross-LoC trade and travel through all routes following the arrest, is expected to attend the meeting.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have seized 114 kg of brown sugar from Shafiq Awan’s truck on January 17. He has been booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

On January 17, when 48 of the 49-truck fleet returned to the PoK, the TFC authorities at Chakothi did not accept them back. They demanded custody of the detained driver, along with his truck, and the substance allegedly seized from the almond bags booked by Al-Fajar company at Muzaffarabad. The Director-General told reporters that no cross-LoC trade or travel would operate until the driver was returned. Twenty-seven Kashmiri truck drivers got stranded at the TFC Chakothi. The Centre took up the matter with the Pakistani High Commission last week.