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Kashmir trade stalls as India, Pakistan dispute drugs bust

23 January, 2014

SRINAGAR: Efforts by India and Pakistan to increase trade and ease tension in disputed Kashmir have suffered a blow with Indian police saying they had seized more than 100 kilogrammes of heroin concealed in a truck full of nuts coming from the Pakistani side.

Pakistan halted cross-border trade and bus travel across the Himalayan region after the seizure last week, and on Tuesday New Delhi summoned Pakistan's acting envoy in protest.

The spat, which comes after the two sides agreed on Saturday to allow round-the-clock movement of trucks and containers through their main border crossing further south in Punjab, underlines the fragility of the peace process.

"It is indeed surprising that Pakistan chose to hold hostage trans-LoC trade and travel bringing immense humanitarian benefits to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, for the sake of persons indulging in drug trafficking," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said, referring to the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

The latest row erupted on Friday when Indian police impounded a truck coming from Chakoti on the Pakistani side of Kashmir and arrested its driver saying they had found 114 packets of heroin concealed in a cargo of almonds.

Deputy Police Inspector General JP Singh said the seizure was the largest contraband haul since cross-border trade began across the heavily militarised Line of Control in 2008, and estimated that it could be worth 1 billion Indian rupees on the international market.

But Pakistan said India often caused problems on the Kashmir border with unsubstantiated allegations.

"It's not for the first time they have resorted to such a practice…" said Brigadier (r) Muhammad Ismail, the head of Azad Kashmir Travel and Trade Authority.

He said no evidence had ever been presented.

A group of 26 people, most of them from the Pakistani side of Kashmir, are now stranded because their bus was turned back at the crossing.

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