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Deadlock over Kashmir LoC trade impasse continues between India, Pakistan

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- The trade across line-of-control (LoC) dividing Kashmir into India and Pakistan-controlled parts continues to remain suspended Tuesday for the 11th straight day in wake of the stalemate over drugs bust, officials said.

"In an effort to break the deadlock over the issue, official delegations from both sides held a meeting at Uri yesterday but with little success," said a senior government official at Baramulla. "The official delegations from both sides however agreed to meet again on Thursday."

The stalemate started after Indian police said they recovered a consignment of 114 kg of narcotics from a goods truck at Salamabad trade facilitation center in Uri town. The contraband identified as Brown Sugar (adulterated form of heroin) is valued around 18.5 million U.S. dollars in international market, said J P Singh, deputy inspector general of police in Baramulla.

The officials from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir rejected the claim and are demanding the release of the truck driver.

The standoff has resulted in the suspension of trade besides halting weekly bus service across LoC.

"During the meeting yesterday, the Pakistani delegation was insisting that the driver and the truck carrying drugs should be sent back, something our side is unwilling to accept," said the official. "We believe that the driver has to face the criminal charges here."

At present more than 25 trucks from Indian-controlled Kashmir are stranded in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, while as 47 truck drivers from their side are stuck near Uri.

Meanwhile, the families of the drivers from Indian-controlled Kashmir staged a protest demonstration demanding they should be brought back.

"We don't understand what is going on," said Altaf Ahmad, a protester. "We want our brothers to be allowed to come back."

The impasse has come at a time when both India and Pakistan were trying to boost bilateral trade.

The Indian-controlled Kashmir officials have already informed New Delhi about the trade deadlock.

The cross-LoC trade between the divided parts of Kashmir was started in 2008. The trade since then is going on barter pattern.

The trade takes place four times in a week through the Salamabad centre in Uri and Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point in Poonch, close to LoC.

At present only 21 listed items are traded which include fruits, vegetables, pulses and handicrafts.

The trade across LoC is a duty free trade. It neither falls in the category of international trade nor does come under the purview of domestic trade.

LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts.

Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

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