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Pakistan, India suspend trade on Kashmir border: officials

MUZAFFARABAD: Pakistan and India have suspended trade across their de facto border in the disputed territory of Kashmir after Indian authorities detained a truck driver accused of drug trafficking, Pakistan officials said Sunday.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries won independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the scenic Himalayan territory in full.

Barter trade across the de facto border began in 2008 as part of peace efforts, but it is frequently disrupted by disputes.

“We were informed by the Indian authorities on Friday evening that they have stopped 22 Pakistani trucks which crossed the Line of Control (LOC) earlier that day,” Basharat Iqbal, trade facilitation officer on the Pakistani side of the border, told AFP.

“They told us that they had discovered 12 kilogrammes (26 pounds) of opium from a truck carrying oranges and were taking an action against the driver. After the incident, we also held 50 Indian trucks on Pakistani Kashmir side, because traffic crosses the border simultaneously,” said Iqbal.

Imtiaz Wayne, director-general of Pakistani Kashmir’s trade and travel authority, said India was not entitled to stop Pakistani drivers on the grounds of smuggling.

“According to our agreement, if they find any banned item in our trucks they are bound to hand over that item and the relevant truck driver to us for further action,” he said.

“We have informed the officials of the ministry of foreign affairs about this matter and have asked them to take up this issue.”

Wayne said Pakistan had also temporarily suspended a special bus service ahead of talks on Monday.

Families separated by the de facto border can also usually apply for special passes to visit their relatives on the service, which operates two days a week.

“The two sides will negotiate this issue during talks tomorrow. We have suspended departure of a passenger bus, which was scheduled to cross into Indian part tomorrow, until the outcome of these talks,” Wayne said.

“We will see what these talks will bring for us tomorrow and then will decide to resume the bus and truck service or not.” -AFP

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