As India gears up to unveil the crucial Integrated Check Post (ICP) project on April 13, the trial run done on Sunday for passengers clearly showed that both India and Pakistan still differed on the route to be used for passenger movement.
Since both the nations set up ICPs connected through new gates, India has been constantly saying that both trade and passenger movement will take place through the new gates and the old gates will be used only for the retreat ceremony.
But during the last couple of visits of union secretary (border management) AE Ahmad, it was learnt that Pakistan was not ready to allow passenger movement through the new gates. Pakistan has been arguing that its customs and immigration offices are at the old gate and it is tough to shift them. However, the Indian authorities have been claiming that talks are on with Pakistan, which will allow passenger movement through the new gates.
The first trial run for passengers saw Pakistan sending passengers through the old gate. These passengers were taken in a bus to the Indian ICP, where they underwent immigration and customs checks at the newly built passenger terminal inside the ICP. The BSF had deployed three buses at the old gate to carry visitors as the Indian immigration and customs offices in the ICP are about 1 km from there.
Official at the border claimed that talks were on at the ministry of home affairs level on this issue, which would soon be resolved.
Talking to HT, deputy commissioner (customs) RK Duggal said, "It was a trial run and all passengers were brought to the new ICP and their immigration and customs checks were done in the new offices. Today the old gate was used. As per our information, Pakistan is working out some modalities and that is the reason why the new gate was not used. High-level talks are on between the two nations."
However, a senior officer told HT on condition of anonymity that even though India had shifted all its customs and immigration offices to the newly built ICP, the fact that the new gates were not used by both the countries pointed towards the lack of coordination between their officials.
The ICP built by Pakistan only has sheds and a storage place. Pakistan's immigration and customs offices are at the old gate and it has not built any new structure at the ICP.