Jammu-Sialkote route to emerge major Intl trade hub

Jammu-Sialkote route to emerge major Intl trade hub

11 November 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Gopal Sharma

Jammu: With the fresh initiative of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and much needed support from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart for opening of Jammu-Sialkote route, these two big traditional trade centers on both sides of the border, are likely to emerge as international business hubs while the move is sure to further improve the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two sides. This route was an important traditional trade link between Punjab ( Pakistan) and hilly State of J&K before 1947. The people of this hill state used to go to Lahore and Amritsar via Sialkote. During that period, Jammu was also connected to Sialkote via train. The distance between these two cities is just 38 kms (From Old Tawi bridge). The site where old SRTC Yard is located at Bikram Chowk, was the old Jammu Railway Station. Even during partition majority of the people from one community shifted to Sialkote and they still visit their relations via Wagah border which is very lengthy and day long tiresome journey while via R S Pura-Suchetgarh, it is hardly 45 minute journey. Several bodies of traders and industrialists of Jammu have welcomed the statement of Chief Minister in which he remarked that he would recommend opening of Jammu-Sialkote road to the Centre for travel and trade. Not only traders and industrialists but the people of this side who have their relatives in Sialkote and other adjoining districts in Pakistan Punjab, have widely welcome Omar Abdullah's initiate. Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jammu president, Y V Sharma while welcoming the statement of Chief Minister said that it was the old demand of the traders and industrialists of Jammu. Mr Sharma said this link has remained the traditional trade route prior to 1947 and opening of this trade link will give major boost to the economic activities on both sides. 'Within few years, these destinations may emerge as international business hubs like Attari-Wagah border in Punjab. It will sure to strengthen people to people contact,' he added. Terming the move as part of Confidence Building Measures between the two sides, the CCI president maintained that it will go a long way in understanding political issues and making way for their resolution and healthy atmosphere. On the pattern of Wagah border, Suchetgarh border can also be improved to attract pilgrim tourists to the tune of over 80-90 lakhs visiting Mata Vaishnodevi every year. If even 40 to 50 % of them, are diverted to this spot, it may boost the economy of R S Pura-Suchetgarh area. It will also help the farmers of R S Pura-Bishnah border belt of district Jammu, Mr Sharma added. Bari Brahmana Industries Association president Annil Suri said there was great scope of the products being manufactured in the industrial units in Jammu and Samba areas in Pakistan. He said in Pakistan, there is great demand of medicines and several Pharma units existing here can have great market in the neighbourhood if the border is opened at Suchetgarh. Many other products being manufactured here will be welcomed in Pakistani market. He said on the pattern of Wagah this border point can be developed and even the Governments of both the sides can think on re-opening rail route as existed prior to partition. Mr Suri claimed that industry will also get a big boost if this traditional trade route is opened. He said at present the trade between two sides is being carried through Wagah-Attari, Munabao-Khokhrapar and via Dubai but if this route is opened, Jammu will also emerge as big trade hub. There may be more than 3000 tradable items likely to be exchanged on this international border and Government will also generate huge revenue. The people in Pakistan will get items at cheap rates as travel distance is less on this route and freight will also be lesser as compared to Poonch- Rawalakote and Srinagar-Uri-Muzaffrabad routes. No doubt, trade on LoC is duty- free and only limited (21) items are allowed for cross LoC trade but there is massive scope of trade if the route is opened. Associated Chamber of Traders Federation chief, Yash Paul Gupta welcomed the CM's statement on opening of this route and said that there was great scope of business opportunities for the traders not only on this side but also in Sialkote area of Pakistan. He said there is need to expedite work on this proposal and the Indian authorities should take up the matter with the Pakistani Prime Minister and the President. He said even the Basmati growers of R S Pura belt will get good benefit of this route. Mr Gupta said before 1947, it was the only trade route between this State and Punjab province. People used to go to Lahore via Sialkote for business purpose and reviving business activity on this is certain to given a big boost to the economic activities in this part of the south Asian region. He said even the traders, apple growers and those dealing in handicrafts in Kashmir, will get great benefit of this route. Mr Gupta said opening of this route will also strengthen relations and CBMs measures between the two countries. Industries Association, Gangyal led by Balbir Gupta also lauded the initiative of the Chief Minister and said that small scale industrial unit holders of Jammu area will get a big market near Jammu if the Sialkote route is opened. He said the Jammu traders and industrialists have high hopes from this proposal and it will give a big boost to the economic activity in the region. Mr Gupta stressed the need to further expedite the exercise on this proposal so that it could be taken up with the Pakistani counterparts at the highest level. He stressed for more and more people to people contact and said that tourism activity will also get a big boost with this move. He demanded that road widening work between R S Pura and Suchetgarh, which is hardly 10 km stretch, be taken up at war-footing.