India is exploring whether it would be more economically viable to import Pakistani cement through the Wagah border than through Mumbai port.
A foreign ministry official said since most of Pakistan’s cement companies were located in the north, the neighbours were considering dropping the traditional Karachi-Mumbai sea route and opening up a land route through Wagah.
“Taking the road route makes more sense since most cement companies are located in the northern region of Pakistan. The proposal is to allow trucks to carry cement through Wagah. Both sides are discussing it,” the source said.
With the building boom pushing up the demand for cement , India has been increasingly banking on Pakistan to meet its shortfall. Pakistan has a surplus of 6Mt.
Already, imports have speeded up with about 100,000t arriving in January. In the four months before that, about 160,000t were imported. Pakistan has given 12 more companies the licence to export cement to India.
Sources said the proposal to open a road route for movement of cement was tied up with setting up integrated check posts (ICP) in border areas, including Wagah.
“We need better facilities to allow cement to be taken to India through the land route as the existing check post is ill-equipped to handle such traffic,” a source said.
India has already announced that an ICP will be set up at Wagah at an estimated cost of Rs 85 crore.
Last April, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz had held talks on increasing bilateral cement trade. Pakistan is keen to export more because India has done away with additional customs and countervailing duties.
The total volume of trade between India and Pakistan rose from Rs 384,644 lakh to Rs 756,961 in 2006-07, a growth of nearly 97 per cent.