KARACHI: Construction work on the Integrated Customs Checkposts at Wagah border has started and is expected to be completed before the end of 2011.
After completion, trade between India and Pakistan would hopefully flourish and traders of both countries would be able to ship their consignments swiftly. Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal said this at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) here on Wednesday.
Sabharwal said that the checkposts would be fully computerised and equipped with most modern facilities. He added that there is a trade potential of $10 billion between the two neighbouring countries and it could easily be achieved if done through official channels. “Trade is the only way to eliminate poverty from the region and raise living standards of the 350 million people living in absolute poverty in the South Asian region,” he said.
Sabharwal added that if India can increase its trade with China to $55 billion in a short period, it could also do the same with Pakistan. He said that with the agreement of both the governments, land route for trade via Tharparkar-Munabao could become operational. He said that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had issued 95,000 visas before the Mumbai incident in November 2008 but the number of visas declined after terrorist attacks.
Regarding opening of the Indian Consulate in Karachi, he said that the Indian government had accepted this demand and had renovated its consulate building a few years ago but it required Pakistan’s government’s approval. Sabharwal denied that India is stealing Pakistan’s water for creating hurdles. “India’s capacity of water storage is low but Pakistan’s capacity of water storage is even worse. Water availability in monsoon season is greater and we should preserve it,” Sabharwal said.
In his welcome address, FPCCI’s Acting President Muhammad Mansha Churra expressed dismay over the low volume of trade between Saarc member countries, especially India and Pakistan. He said that promotion of trade is the only way to minimise political tensions in the region. Pakistan-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry President S M Muneer said that the two neighbouring countries should not mix trade with politics and the business community should be allowed to carry on with their trade without hurdles.
“We should find a way to boost bilateral trade and ring all the unofficial trade through transshipment into legal channels,” he said. He especially referred to the nontariff barriers being imposed by the Indian government to block a smooth flow of Pakistan’s exports to India. He demanded of the Indian government to lift all the non-tariff barriers. Muneer said that both countries should have proper trade relations and in this regards, bank branches should be opened in both India and Pakistan to further facilitate trading activities.