Giving a thrust to development of enhanced trade between the two nations, India and Pakistan decided to explore the possibility of opening a new railway route in Rajasthan and use the present railway and land routes to transport petrol, diesel and other petroleum products.
This was decided at a meeting of the Expert Group on Petroleum and Petrochemicals Trade held in Delhi on Wednesday. This was the second round of meetings held between the two countries. The earlier round was held in the last week of May in Islamabad. The Indian side was represented by Vivek Kumar, Joint Secretary (International Business).
At the meeting, India impressed upon Pakistan the need to allow transportation of petrol and diesel through the land route and also proposed building decided pipelines to the nearest point on the border to enable smooth movement of petroleum products. India indicated that it was ready to supply petroleum products from the recently commissioned Bhatinda refinery of HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd or from Jalandhar depot of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and event the Panipat refinery for petrochemicals.
The Indian side also urged Pakistan to work on allowing solid products like pet coke, sulphur and chemicals to be trucked via Attari-Wagah border instead of allowing its import only through rail at present. The Pakistan side, represented by Shabbir Ahmad, Joint Secretary in Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, was of the view that they would have to go back and consult the higher authorities on these issues. However, they gave positive signals on allowing products like pet coke and sulphur through trucks.
The Indian side emphasised the desirability of developing another railway route for trade, i.e., the Munabao-Khokrapar route. Both sides agreed on the need for the railway authorities of India and Pakistan to work out the most optimal commercial utilisation of the available railway infrastructure for transportation of petroleum and petrochemical products, including addressing the existing issue of inadequacy of locomotives in Pakistan.
Noting that the current cost of confirmation of letters of credit was high, both sides agreed on the need to work out back-to-back credit lines between banks so as to put in place an efficient trade finance arrangement between the two countries. It was agreed that this would be taken up with the respective Central Banks, Finance Ministries and other agencies concerned. Both sides also noted the need for a direct courier service between India and Pakistan, as presently cargo reaches much faster than the documents required for clearing of goods at the discharge port.