India, Pakistan to take rail route to boost trade
New Delhi/Attari, September 22
India also offered to supply up to 100 locomotives to Pakistan Railways as the two countries signed three agreements to substantially facilitate bilateral trade mechanisms. The three pacts -- redressal of trade grievances agreement, mutual recognition agreement and customs cooperation agreement -- were concluded at the seventh round of talks on commercial and economic cooperation between the two countries that ended in Islamabad yesterday.
The Indian side was led by Commerce Secretary SR Rao while the Pakistani team was headed by his counterpart Munir Qureshi at the two-day meeting. The two sides agreed that officials of respective railway ministries would hold joint coordination meetings on a monthly basis to discuss the proposal for more trade traffic to be carried through trains.
Pakistan has also agreed to “substantially” increase the number of goods coming through the Attari-Wagah land route by dismantling the negative list by the end of October and promising to transition fully to Most Favoured Nation status for India by December-end. India has agreed to reduce its sensitive list for Pakistan under SAFTA by 30 per cent by December-end, he said.
This would give a major boost to trade ties with the neighboring country as removal of restrictions would enhance exports from India which are till now transported via sea route. At present, Pakistan allows about 130 items through the land route.
Interacting with media at the joint check post at Attari, Rao described the talks as “very fruitful”. "Pakistan has agreed to increase the number of goods traded through the Attari-Wagah land route. It has agreed that the custom procedures and goods clearance at the joint check post would take place seven days a week instead of the current six days," said Rao.
New Delhi also informed Islamabad of its willingness to consider export of up to 5 million cubic metres of gas a day for an initial period of five years, as per the joint statement issued by the two sides. The Pakistani side said India’s offer had been received and was under active consideration.
Public sector undertaking BHEL also offered to cooperate with Pakistan to set up 500-2,000 MW capacity in coal/hydro or gas power plants as per the requirements of the neighbouring country. India also indicated its willingness to cooperate with Pakistan in areas of wind and solar energy.
Appreciating the recent liberalisation of the bilateral visa regime, the two nations observed that this had fulfilled a long-pending demand of the business community of both sides and had ensured a better enabling environment for bilateral trade. Both sides agreed that procedures needed to be simplified to encourage two-way investment.
Old route, new ties
Pakistan has constituted a working group to explore the possibility of opening a second land route for trade between Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sind India has already constituted a similar group The first meeting of the Munabao-Khokhrapar joint working group would be held in the fourth week of October in New Delhi Commerce Secretary SR Rao arrives at the Attari-Wagah border. Photo: Vishal Kumar
Pakistan has constituted a working group to explore the possibility of opening a second land route for trade between Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokhrapar in Sind
India has already constituted a similar group
The first meeting of the Munabao-Khokhrapar joint working group would be held in the fourth week of October in New Delhi
Commerce Secretary SR Rao arrives at the Attari-Wagah border. Photo: Vishal Kumar