Pakistan opens land trade route for India
Lahore: To increase the bilateral trade between India and Pakistan it’s a necessity step to allow India an unrestricted access to Pakistan.
Under the roadmap Pakistan had agreed to open up the land route for all items exported by India once New Delhi cuts the number of 836 items on its sensitive list (the items that are not allowed to be traded with Pakistan) by 30pc.
Prem Chand Valeti, director (South Asia) at India’s ministry of commerce said, “We have implemented our part (of the agreement), but Pakistan is ‘yet to’ fulfill its promise.”
The document binds India to bring down the number of items on the sensitive list to 100 gradually in one year (from the date of finalization of the roadmap) and Pakistan in five years.
The process was lowered down because Pakistan is not completing the plan as per expectations, whereas India on the other hand has done a lot.
Islamabad, which scrapped the positive list of items tradable with India to replace it with a much smaller negative list of un-tradable items following the resumption of the commerce secretary level trade talks in April 2011, is also yet to grant India the MFN (most favored nation) status it had promised in the roadmap.
The official bilateral trade between Pakistan and India has surged 44pc to $2.6bn in the last two-and-a-half years.
Almost one-third of the total bilateral trade takes place through the land route. The rest takes place through rail and sea routes.
In the hope of normalisation of trade relations with Pakistan in the next few years, India has also developed a large, state-of-the-art ICP at Attari to facilitate increasing cargo and passenger traffic across the border.
Valeti said the two issues were being taken care of under the banner of Safta (South Asia Free Trade Agreement).
“The draft of a motor vehicle agreement for free movement of vehicles across the Saarc nations is ready and circulated amongst the member states,” he said.
He was hopeful that finalisation of the agreement would allow free movement of cargo vehicles across the Saarc member states.
“The agreement would allow a truck to start from Nepal and pass through India to unload its cargo at its final destination in Balochistan or elsewhere in Pakistan,” he added.
At present, Pakistani trucks are required to unload their cargo at Attari and Indian vehicles at Wagah. The cargo is then carried by local trucks to its final destination on both sides of the border.
Another major factor that is widely considered a major hurdle hampering bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is lack of ‘containerized trade’.
Many Indian businessmen told this reporter during the one day stay in Amritsar that start of containerized trade would give significant boost to bilateral trade and help address the issue of smuggling across the border through cargo trucks and freight trains.
At present, Pakistan allows only 137 items to be traded through the only land trade route between the two countries.