Huge jump seen in imports from Pakistan through land route

Hopeful of trade flourishing between India and Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab, customs officials have sought an Inland Container Depot (ICD) or a Container Freight Station (CFS) near the border town of Amritsar.

“We have written to the Central Board of Excise and Customs [CBEC] and suggested the setting up of a dry port somewhere near the Integrated Check Post [ICP] at Attari. They are expected to take up the matter with the Commerce Ministry soon,” said K.K. Sharma, Customs Commissioner, Amritsar.

Asserting that the Indian side could handle more trade by road at the Attari ICP, Mr. Sharma said his department had also written to the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Ferozepur to allow cargo movement through the border town.

“There is a need to open up the Ferozepur rail link for bilateral trade. There is a demand and 300 wagons can be booked. If India gets the Most Favoured Nation status and the ICP and railway operate in full capacity, the surge in trade can be handled well,” explained Mr Sharma.

Imports from Pakistan through Attari in April-December 2012 in value terms stood at Rs. 630 crore, a jump of 87 per cent over the corresponding period the previous year. India’s exports to Pakistan through this route stood at Rs. 1,237 crore in the April-December period, an increase of 54 per cent over the corresponding period in 2011.

While trade through the sea route is most in use, it eats up on both time and cost. “If traders realise that they save on both time and money by using the road route at Attari, and we have infrastructure to facilitate it, they will definitely shift their route,” said Mr. Sharma. Since October 2007, both the countries have been allowing the entry and unloading of trucks at check posts. While the Pakistani truck can travel a few yards and unload at the Attari ICP, the Indian counterpart can do the same at Wagah in Pakistan after security checks. While Pakistan has a scanner for checking the trucks, India still ‘rummages’ the trucks manually and uses sniffer dogs to detect narcotics or explosive material. Trade hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the truck has to return the same day.

India is in the process of getting a scanner soon, which will be operational by year-end, according to the Commissioner.

Major imports from Pakistan comprise dry dates, gypsum, cement, clear float glass and chemicals while exports are soyabean, cotton and yarn and fresh vegetables. Pakistan allows import of only 137 items from India.