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Wagah route to benefit traders
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
As India and Pakistan have decided to set up a Joint Trade Council following the summit level talks between Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, chances of opening the Wagah and Hussainiwala land and rail route for trade between the two countries and beyond have brightened. There is every possibility of opening the Wagah land route for truckers.

In fact, the idea to set up such a Council was mooted by industrialists of India and Pakistan during the recent visit of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, to Lahore and other cities of that country. On his arrival at Lahore on March 14, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was accompanied by certain big names of India’s industrial world, had addressed a joint meeting of the industrialists of both countries at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce.

At the meeting, President of the Lahore Chamber, Mian Misbah Rahman, had mooted the idea of setting up a joint trade officer either at Wagah border or elsewhere for a smooth interaction between industrialists of the two countries to deal with trade related issues. His proposal was endorsed by all present at the meeting. A news item regarding this proposal had appeared on the front page of The Tribune on March 15. Now that proposal has matured in setting up a Joint Trade Council.

Obviously, the Council will play an effective role in addressing the concerns and complaints of industrialists of both countries besides giving impetus to the trade between the two countries. The Commerce Ministry has already assured the Pakistan authorities concerned of doing away with the non-tariff barrier to give a boost to trade between the two countries. There has been a complaint and also serious concern from the Pakistani Industrialists regarding the big trade imbalance between the two countries. They are for balancing it.

The major beneficiaries from the opening of the land routes for trade will be the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and certain parts of Rajasthan. Through the Wagah and Hussainiwala routes entire Central Asia could be accessed. Before 1971, the Wagah route was used for the transportation of dry fruits, grapes etc from Afghanistan to India.

Informed sources say that Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, is very keen to see the Hussaniwala rail route opened at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the announcement made to start the bus service between Amritsar and Lahore has brought cheers to Punjabis in this part of the country. Obviously, the purpose to start the bus service is to facilitate the visit of Sikh devotees to Nankana Sahib and other Sikh religious places.

Already, the Pakistan Punjab Government has started building a dual carriageway from Nankana Sahib to Wagah. Its foundation stone was laid on March 16 by the Capt Amarinder Singh and his counterpart of Pakistan Punjab, Mr Pervaiz Elahi.

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