With the Integrated Check Post (ICP) set to be inaugurated at Attari border on Friday, Punjab has set its sights on another land route to Pakistan - via the Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur district, which was shut down during the 1971 war.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is set to raise this demand in the presence of ministers of India and Pakistan during the inauguration. "The Punjab government is preparing a road map for re-opening the Hussainiwala border route," Punjab home secretary DS Bains told HT.
Badal would also urge Pakistan Punjab chief minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif to make efforts in this regard. Pakistan's commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, accompanied by a 35-member trade delegation from Pakistan Punjab, would bring proposals to boost bilateral trade through the land route.
At least 100 trucks carrying dry fruit, plums and pomegranates from Afghanistan and Pakistan used to pass through the Hussainiwala check post daily before the 1971 war. Indian traders had been exporting rice-shelling equipment and farm machinery to Pakistan and beyond through the check post.
"It then took just 45 minutes for commodities to cross over via Hussainiwala. Now, it takes 45 days for the same through the ports of Gujarat," Bains said.
The Punjab government is also exploring the option of exporting petrochemicals to Pakistan through this route, thanks to the Bathinda oil refinery and several ancillary units, Bains added.
He said re-opening of the Hussainiwala route would also encourage cultural exchange between Punjabis on both sides of the border.