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Hostilities in Poonch sector impact trans-LoC trade and travel

Neither traders could exchange their goods nor the ‘peace bus’ could cross over as gates remained locked at zero point in Poonch’s Chakan da Bagh area.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 19, 2012, 06.25 PM IST
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SRINAGAR: Displaying the fragility of initiatives between India and Pakistan, the travel and trade taking place across LoC was suspended after the rival armies exchanged fire that led to casualties on both the sides. Neither traders could exchange their goods nor the ‘peace bus’ could cross over as gates remained locked at zero point in Poonch’s Chakan da Bagh area.

“Nothing is happening right now,” Trade Facilitation Officer (TFO) Abdul Hamid said. “Normality will restore only after flag meeting will take place but the problem is that they (Pakistan army) do not want flag meeting.”

Both the sides are accusing each other for the crisis. Indian army says it started on June 13 afternoon when Pakistani gunners targeted Nangi Tekri posts in Krishna Ghati sector at around 2.15 pm. Rajinder Singh, one of the soldiers was injured in the attack.

When reinforcement was sent to evacuate the soldier to the hospital, Pakistani army did not permit his evacuation by increasing the small arm shelling. Three soldiers - PP Bakar, Jai Parminder and Balwinder Singh, were reported injured in this attack. Singh died instantly and remained on the border for the night.

The fire was retaliated and the exchanges continued till 7 pm. Army says the firing is aimed at pushing in infiltrators, a process that has become very difficult because of the fence. In a fortnight, army spokesman from Jammu said, Pakistani troops have violated the ceasefire four times in Poonch area alone. A few days back, the troops detected a serious attempt by three militants to infiltrate from Janghar area of Nowshera sector in Rajouri.

The other side is also accusing India of opening the fire and attacking the civilians. Police officials in Rawlakot belt have claimed firing and shelling on Battal village where at least two civilians were injured.

The crossfire impacted the initiatives that are totally civilian in nature. Eighteen of the PoK visitors who were supposed to cross the LoC on June 18 after expiry of their visa terms could not leave as the bus service was suspended. Now the district authorities have sent their requests to MEA for extension in their visa as they would require waiting for the bus service to resume.

For two days there was no trade from Chakan da Bagh window as the gates remained closed. Trading takes place four days a week and passengers crossover once in seven days. Reports from Poonch said that trucks laden with merchandise were actually sent by the traders but they returned from the zero point when the Pakistanis did not open the gate. Traders pointed out that this was for the first time when hostilities led to suspension of the two major exercises.

Now the army is using its hot line connectivity with the other side to have a flag meeting in which the issues could be sorted out. No meeting took place on Monday though some ground work had been done on that front. The stand-off in Poonch sector, however, ha not impacted the movement of civilians and the trading lorries in Uri between Slamabad and Chakothi.

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