The National Investigation Agency probe into the barter trade between India and Pakistan at LoC is almost finalised and agency has decided to write to the government recommending closure of the trade, which agency sources said is largely being misused and several traders are involved in funding terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Top NIA sources said that the LoC barter trade of 21 items, which happens from Salamabad and Chakkan Da Bagh trade facilitation centres (TFCs), was started in 2008 as part of confidence building measures (CBMS) but it is not serving the actual purpose.
Instead, there is large scale under-invoicing and over-invoicing of products like California almonds, shawls, pulses etc which is hurting the business of other traders in Jammu and the Kashmir valley and several traders are just the fronts for funding the extremists in the state, said the source.
India had signed an agreement with Pakistan in 2008 to start completely duty free trade of the produce of J&K and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on barter basis from these two TFCs as part of CBMs.
“The trade is proving to be more harmful for India rather than having any confidence building measures. Pakistan is not obeying the agreement and traders on both sides are assisting the mafia and terrorists in waging a war against India. We will strongly recommend that government ends the barter trade. There is no need for it at all unless proper checks and balances are in place,” said a senior NIA officer.
Over the past seven months, the anti-terror probe agency has analysed hundred thousand documents related to trade done by 300 registered traders and based on the irregularities, it is preparing a report.
NIA sleuths have already established that the “terror funding” by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed in J&K and the alleged transfer of cross-LoC trade proceeds are “interlinked”, as first reported by TOI.
Several traders including former president of LoC Traders’ Association Tariq Ahmed Khan, Haji Mohammad Sultan, Zahoor Ahmed Watali, Farooq Baggu and Kamal alias Bittu of Jammu, as well as hawala traders and separatists have been raided and questioned by NIA in last one month.
While at least five traders out of 300 have been found to be associated with Hizbul-Mujahideen, several others have links with separatists and suspects behind sustained stone pelting in the valley.
NIA suspects that crores of crores of rupees has moved in the valley from Pakistan using the LoC trade and through hawala channels, which has been further used to fuel the stone pelting and terrorism.
An FIR filed by the agency last year had clearly stated, “This is in gross violation of the state policy of prohibition on trade in ‘third-party origin goods’ through this mechanism and information indicated that these funds are being used for fomenting terrorism and separatism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Speaking to TOI, President of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCI) Rajesh Gupta said, “It’s a CBM but real CBM should have been tourism in the state. We are trying hard to get banking system in the place but Pakistan government cannot be trusted on this as the money coming through other channels can be used by rouge elements. There should be clampdown by the government so that hawala and drugs money doesn’t come to India and is used by terrorists/criminals”.