Trade at Amritsar ICP dips to nine-year low due to covid
AMRITSAR Trade through the Integrated Check Post (ICP) Attari, situated at the India-Pakistan border in Amritsar, has fallen to a nine-year low for 2020-21 fiscal (till January) at ₹2,277 crore. The ICP facilitates India’s trade with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and movement of passengers from India to Pakistan and vice-versa. Officials at the ICP believe that trade would not be able to cross ₹2,500 crore this fiscal.
In its first year of operation in 2012-13, the ICP saw a trade of ₹4,800 crore. The highest trade of ₹5,443 crore was recorded in 2013-14 though the ICP.
After the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019, the Centre imposed 200% duty on all items being imported from Pakistan. As a result the import of Pakistani goods reduced to all but zero while the export to Pakistan, and trade with Afghanistan remained as it was. Only rock salt was the main item which continued to be imported from Pakistan, due to its low cost.
In August 2019, India abrogated Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. In reaction to this, the Pakistan government, unilaterally, cut off all trade ties with India. The Pakistan government also stopped India to export its items to Afghanistan. Since then Afghanistan has been exporting through the ICP. Onion, apple, dry fruit major items, which Afghanistan exports through the land border.
Before this, gypsum, cement, plaster of paris, caustic Soda (flake or liquor), glass, soda ash, coal and rock salt were among the major items exported by Pakistan and Afghanistan. Similarly, India had been exporting soya bean, chicken feed, vegetables, red chilies, cotton, spares of automotives, biscuits, newsprint, plastic granules, fresh mutton etc.
A senior Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) official, from March 2020 to January 2021, when the covid-19 was its peak, 4,602 trucks imported goods, including onion, apple, dry-dates, from Afghanistan.
He said, “In March 2020, before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, 201 trucks were received from Afghanistan. In April, trade remained closed. In May, only one Afghan truck was received, as three in June and 65 in July. After this, import of onion from Afghanistan started and 500-1000 trucks started coming every month.”
ICP’s manager Sukhdev Singh said, “Time and again, we hold seminars and meetings with the stockholders, including traders, to increase trade through the ICP.”Thousands of truckers and their drivers, porters and their helpers have suffered due to the dip in trade.
Anil Mehra, president, Federation of Karyana and Dry Fruit Association, said the Indo-Pak relationship had shown signs of improving and they expect a boost in trade. He added, “The Pakistan government should lift its ban on trade with India through the ICP. India should also remove the 200% duty. Once trade opens between the two countries, the potential is up to ₹10,000 crore and more.”