A move by the Indian Army to renovate the cafeteria at Kaman Post has generated hope about the possible resumption of cross-LOC trade between India and Pakistan.
“Kaman Post, named after Late Lieutenant Colonel Kaman Singh Pathania, MVC, is the first post of Indian Army on National Highway 1A, the Baramulla – Kaman road and leads to Muzaffarabad in PoK. As part of confidence-building measures, the trade and bus service between the two countries were conducted through Kaman trade point established on this post,” reads a statement issued by defence spokesman in Srinagar Lt Col Emron Musavi.
The Indian Army, the statement says, has renovated the cafeteria at Kaman Post and has also installed a 60-feet national flag pole. “Kaman Post is one of major attractions for visitors, especially for motivational tours of schools and colleges. The post is especially popular for its view across the Line of Control,” the army statement reads.
The area is restricted and visitors are allowed only after permission, which has given hope that the opening of the cafeteria might lead to the opening of the road. According to the people who were dealing with the cross-LOC trade, the cafeteria was mostly used by truck drivers from Muzaffarabad and other areas during cross-LOC trade. “I have no idea it is being used by visitors of Kashmir. I hope cross-LOC trade resumes,” said a trader.
On April 9, 2019, India suspended cross-LOC trade on grounds that the trade routes were being misused for funneling illegal weapons, narcotics, and fake currency. “During the ongoing investigations of certain cases by NIA, it has been brought out that a significant number of trading concerns engaged in LOC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organizations involved in fuelling terrorism/separatism. Investigations have further revealed that some individuals, who have crossed over to Pakistan, and joined militant organisations, have opened trading firms in Pakistan. These trading firms are under the control of militant organisations and are engaged in LoC trade,” a press released circulated that time by the home ministry had said.
The two steps, the cross-LOC bus service and trade were seen two biggest confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan and part of larger steps towards resolving the Kashmir issue, step by step. However, their suspension in April 2019 was seen as a regressive move and many believe it was linked with the government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and 35A five months later on August 5, 2019.
On April 7, 2005, the then Indian prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh had flagged off the first cross-LOC bus service — titled Karwaan-e-Aman, or peace caravan — that connected Srinagar to Muzaffarabad. Later, the cross-LOC trade, established as a barter trade, began on October 21, 2008, across two routes — Salamabad (Uri)-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot. Traders on either side of the LOC were permitted to exchange 21 mutually agreed items.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine