Pulwama shadow on Indo-Pak trade
Amritsar, February 19
The Centre’s move to withdraw the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and escalate the basic customs import duty to 200 per cent with immediate effect has taken its toll on the bilateral trade through the Attari-Wagah joint check post.
The decision came in the wake of the Pulwama attack in which 44 CRPF men were martyred. The hike in the basic customs duty is applicable on all items being imported from Pakistan since February 16.
Suneet Kochhar, chairman, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Punjab, said instead of hiking the import duty and burdening the Indian traders, a blanket ban should have been put on duty-free barter trade between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and J&K.
“The duty-free trade between the two parts of Kashmir was underway through the Salamabad (India)-Chakothi (Pakistan) and Chakan Da Bagh (India)-Rawalakot (Pakistan) routes. These ports are not even governed by the Foreign Trade Policy and Customs Act-1962 and are major gateways for illegal imports and terror-funding. This should have been stopped at first instance,” he added.
Anil Mehra, president, Federation of Dry Fruit and Karyana Merchants’ Association, said India had started these two ports just to trade 21 items between Kashmir and PoK, but it was being misused.
He rued that in an attempt to isolate Pakistan by snapping the trade ties, the instant hike in import duty had broken the backbone of the Indian traders. “Instead of imposing the hike immediately, the Centre should have at least given a few days’ relaxation to the traders to pick up the goods that have already been imported from across the border.”
Under the prevailing situation, various items that were ordered earlier have reached the integrated check post at Attari but the traders were in a Catch-22 situation to pick up the delivery keeping in view of the unprecedented hike in the import duty.
Customs clearing agent Jaspal Singh said around 95,000 cement bags, besides dry dates, gypsum and inorganic chemicals and drugs in bulk were lying at Attari.
“A bag of Pakistani cement that costs between Rs 250-Rs 300 would now invite an import duty of Rs 800 each. Similarly, the duty on a truck load of dry date which was Rs 2.22 lakh earlier has now been hiked to Rs 32 lakh, including the GST,” Singh added.
Land Port Authority of India manager Sukhdev Singh confirmed that around 50 Pakistani cement loaded trucks, seven dry dates’ trucks and 10 other trucks loaded with gypsum and other goods arrived at Attari. “We have asked the traders to approach the competent authorities to initiate the process of returning the goods by roping in the exports from Pakistan,” he said.
Additional force at Wagah border
- BSF DIG JS Oberoi said the Beating Retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah joint check post was being organised regularly, but additional forces personnel had been deputed to keep a tab on spectators to avoid any untoward incident
- The Delhi-Lahore bus and Samjhauta Express train too are running without any hindrance, but with low occupancy
Instead of hiking the import duty and burdening the Indian traders, a blanket ban should have been put on duty-free barter trade between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and J&K. These routes are major gateways for illegal imports and terror-funding. This should have been stopped at first instance. — Suneet Kochhar, Chairman, Assocham, Punjab
Source : https://www.tribuneindia.com