The inauguration of the integrated check post (ICP) at the Attari border, Amritsar (Punjab), to facilitate trade between India and Pakistan on April 13, 2012 has started showing outstanding results. In the first quarter of the current financial year, imports grew by 106 per cent while exports witnessed an increase of 39 per cent over the corresponding period last year.
Despite significant growth in imports as compared to exports, the balance of trade is still in India’s favour. According to custom’s data, the total imports during the first quarter i.e. April 2012 - June 2012 was Rs 190.22 crore as compared to Rs 92.59 crore during the corresponding period of the last financial year. Similarly, export touched Rs 356.98 crore during the first quarter of the current financial year, while during the corresponding period of the previous financial year it was Rs 257.35 crore.
India mainly imports cement, gypsum, dry fruits, rock salt from Pakistan while it exports meat, vegetables, soya meal, raw cotton, yarn to Pakistan.
Though traders dealing with import and export to and from Pakistan are upbeat about the ICP project, they want the governments of both the countries to give another push so that trade between them could increase manifold. What has come as a dampener for traders is that the Pakistan government has still not allowed trade of items freely from the Attari-Wagah land route despite it being the cheapest and shortest trade route, according to the PHD chamber.
Earlier, this year in March, Pakistan notified its negative list for India, which means barring 1,209 items, India can now export all products to the neighbouring country. However, Islamabad had allowed import of only 137 items through the Attari land route, instead of the nearly 2,000 items, which were allowed earlier under the positive list. Traders have claimed that out of 137 items, majority of products are already exported to Pakistan through Attari land crossing. They are of the view that if Pakistan allows around 7,500 to be imported from Indian sides through Attari land route, trade would grow manifold.
According to a study released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the opening up of the ICP at Attari-Wagah border and Pakistan’s granting the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India could increase the bilateral trade to $8 billion (around Rs 40,000 cr) a year in the next two years from the current level of $2.6 billion.
With the commencement of the ICP, infrastructure set up there can handle ten times the number of trucks to pass conveniently as against 100-150 trucks earlier. Also, cargo movement between the two countries can take place for 12 hours daily between 7 am and 7 pm as against the eight hours sanctioned earlier. This means more trucks can land in India and cross over to Pakistan on a daily basis.