India-Pakistan Trade Resumes After 20-Day Halt

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Trade between India and Pakistan resumed over the de facto border in Kashmir on Tuesday after a 20-day halt sparked by deadly army clashes, with traders grumbling about their losses.

Six Pakistani trucks crossed into Indian-administered Kashmir, an official said, ending the halt in trade sparked by the killing of five soldiers earlier this month.

The convoy, carrying onions, dates and dried fruits, crossed the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the two parts of the disputed Himalayan territory, shortly before midday (0700 GMT).

A similar number also crossed over from Poonch on the Indian side of the LoC to Rawalakot on the Pakistan side, with dozens more trucks waiting to make the same journey.

Traders on the Pakistani side complained that the closure of the key crossing point had cost them 30 million rupees ($300,000) following the flare-up.

Cross-border trade has been encouraged in recent years as a means of improving relations between the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Kashan Masood, the head of the traders' association in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said the recent disruption had hit business hard.

"We had placed orders for tomatoes and other vegetables from India. They were rotten and we suffered the loss of 30 million rupees," he said.

"We are always at risk that our business will suffer whenever tension starts on LoC. We are doing this business at our own risk as we don't have any guarantee from the authorities."

Kishan Singh, an Indian member of a joint chamber of commerce formed by traders on both sides of the LoC, welcomed the resumption but said it was not enough to dispel the uncertainty.

"We are happy at trade resuming again but we suffered losses and are still uncertain and worried," Singh, who runs a fruit and vegetable business, told AFP from the city of Jammu.

"Every time there is tension between India and Pakistan we are the worst hit, and it will take a couple of weeks for this trade to normalise again."

The clashes, which began on January 6, prompted fears that tensions between the countries could escalate, but a ceasefire agreement on January 16 has held.

A cross-border bus service resumed on Monday. The route from Poonch to Rawalakot was opened in 2005 to enable members of divided families in the region to meet up.

The flare-up in Kashmir also hit sporting events, with matches involving Pakistan in the women's cricket World Cup being moved out of Mumbai on security grounds to the relative backwater of Cuttack.

Organisers said on Tuesday that the Pakistan team were staying in the stadium at Cuttack instead of a hotel before the start of the tournament on Thursday.

"The ICC considered all options and the best security for the teams, and we have chosen to use the Barabati stadium clubhouse," said a spokeswoman for the International Cricket Council.

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