India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”.
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organisations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said yesterday that 35 trucks carrying fruit travelling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.