Chandigarh: The Attari-Wagah trade route is not just a road between India and Pakistan, but it is also vital for the prosperity and peaceful relation between the two neighbouring countries, Punjab Minister for Finance Manpreet Singh Badal said.
After launching a book titled 'Unilateral Decisions Bilateral Losses' here, Manpreet Badal also said that its reach up to Central Asia will remain crucial for the economic upliftment and social welfare of the Punjabis.
Gauging the points made to lessen international trade losses in the book, written by Afaq Hussain and Nikita Singla, the Director and Associate Director of the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (BRIEF), respectively, a New Delhi-based research and policy think-tank, Badal expressed grave concern over the current situation of trade with the neighbouring countries.
"I, on behalf of the Punjab government, will pursue the case to revive the Wagah-Attari trade with the government of India," said the Finance Minister, adding that there are immense trade opportunities in the state.
Notably, since February 2019, India-Pakistan relations have been sliding downhill after the militant attack in Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian government had also decided to withdraw the status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) for trade granted to Pakistan since 1996.
"German statesman Otto Von Bismark once remarked, 'the road to Berlin lies through Vienna'. I sincerely feel that the road between New Delhi and Islamabad lies through Punjab. For Punjabis, a lot is at stake given their proximity to the shared border.
"Trade at Wagah-Attari had made this shared border a point of cooperation and interdependence. Highlighting the losses on ground because of the suspension of trade, this makes it evident how over time, trade has become crucial for the survival of the border economies, revival of which could lead not just to prosperity but also lay the foundation for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan," said Badal.
Virtually joining the discussion on the book, Congress MP from Amritsar, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, said that Amritsar doesn't have any real industry except for tourism which is also badly affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He urged the Government of India to consider Wagah-Attari trade as a full-fledged industry for Amritsar that gives direct and indirect employment to more than 25,000 families.
"Revival of trade is very important for the border district," he said.
In their book, Hussain and Singla cited that in 2018-19, the bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stood at $2.5 billion - India's exports to Pakistan accounting for $2.06 billion and India's imports from Pakistan at $495 million.
India's decision vis-a-vis MFN status withdrawal and imposition of 200 per cent duty brought Pakistan's exports to India from an average of $45 million per month in 2018 to $2.5 million per month in March-July 2019, until trade was completely suspended by Pakistan.
The book also highlights the socio-economic impact of trade suspension assessed through field research in Punjab.
As the trade communities and the citizens at large stand by the decisions of the government, the book makes a call to identify adequate measures that could be taken to sustain the border economy of Punjab, in the absence of cross-border trade.
According to the authors' interactions in Amritsar, more than 9,000 families have been directly affected because of their breadwinners' dependence on bilateral trade; and every month, two-third of nearly Rs 30 crore that was being added to the local economy is lost.