Wagah integrated checkpost opens for trade

Wagah integrated checkpost opens for trade

As India awaits Pakistan’s nod for  Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to it, trade between the two countries is set to receive a major boost with the inauguration of the first-of-its-kind Integrated Check Post (ICP) at the Attari border in Punjab on Friday.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, flanked by a host of dignitaries, will inaugurate the ICP on Friday on the occassion of Baisakhi. This is the first ICP out of the 13 that are to be set up on the international borders by the Union government at an estimated cost of Rs 650 crore. 

The trade between the two neighbouring nations is expected to grow at least four-five times via the road link in the next few years owing to the new facility. The ICP is expected to handle nearly 1,500 trucks (both export and import) per day against just about 300-odd trucks that crossed the border before the high-tech ICP became functional.

The ICP is expected to change the way the bilateral trade is being conducted between the two countries. 

The time frame for daily operations has been increased. Earlier, trade was conducted for only 8-hours a day. 

The ICP will operate 12-hours from 7 am to 7 pm everyday. This would substantially increase the trade movement on both sides leading to higher returns for traders. Two gates will now operate, against the one that till today had been a major cause of traffic congestion on the route, causing enormous unwarranted delays.

Trade items

For now, the ICP will handle only 137 trade items approved for trade between the two countries through the land route, said sources. 

Rajdeep Uppal, the Vice-President of the Amritsar Exporters Chambers of Commerce said the ICP would lead to an increase in trade by about 35 per cent in the very first years.

He said traders would  now be able to get bulk commodities like cement through road link, and significantly, much faster and without any bottlenecks.

The old check post was operating from about 8 acres of area. The new ICP has come up in an area of 120 acres at an estimated cost of Rs 150 crore. Bigger warehouses with much expanded storage capacity has been catered to at the ICP.

Adequate infrastructure

Officials say that the ICP has adequate customs and immigration counters, CCTV cameras, metal detectors, currency exchange counters, dispensary, banks and cafeterias. Big passenger terminals for fast track custom and immigration services have also been provided. There is a plan to have a separate quarantine building with a high-tech laboratory to scan infected animals being pushed in for trade.

The trade impetus is likely to help both nations. But one area of concern is that the passenger movement will not take place through the new gate connecting the ICP.

That’s because Pakistan still does not have custom and immigration counter facilities at the new gate on its side. 

To overcome the bottleneck, the Indian authorities have hired three buses that will help passengers commute between the ICP and the old gate. The state-of-the art scanners for cargo scaning  is yet to be installed, prompting authorities to manually scan the cargo flow.

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