With Prime Minister Narendra Modi landing in Kutch for the meet of top police officers of the country on Friday, the Federation of Kutch Indusries Associations (FOKIA) has demanded reopening a trade route between Kutch and Pakistan via Khavda.
“It was landmark decision by then prime minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji to initiate the trade with Pakistan via Atari, Punjab border. This trade route has created significant business potential for industries in both the countries. A similar trade route was operational between Diplo (Pakistan) and Khavda Naka (India) in Kutch district for centuries and even about a decade after Independence. This trade route is not operational since more than fifty years. We, earnestly request your good self to reopen this trade route and set up an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Khavda, to provide an easy access of Pakistan market for the industries of Kutch and western part of India,” FOKIA managing director (MD), Nimish Fadke, wrote in his e-mail to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on December 8.
The industry body said that a trade route to Pakistan via Kutch will boost Indian export to the western neighbour. “This will help industries in India to avoid expensive and long trade routes via Dubai or sea route. Possible rail connectivity between both the countries can help increasing the trade to advantage to India, giving an access to Indian goods to populous regions of Pakistan like Karachi etc,” Fadke has further written.
The FOKIA MD has also sought time to meet Modi during the three-day conference of DGs and IGs in Dhorado near Kavda in Kutch. But he said that he was still waiting for a response from the PMO.
According to Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Indian exports to Pakistan were worth Rs1857 million US dollars and imports from Pakistan were worth 497 million USD in year 2014-15. India exports commodities like petroleum products, drugs and pharmaceuticals, yarn etc while importing cement, leather, cotton yarn and fabric etc.
“The only direct export route to Pakistan as of now is through Wagah border in Punjab. The other option is to route our exports via Dubai but this is proving costly. If the Kutch route is reopened, western India will get access to Pakistan. Besides, it can help textile, ceramic and chemical industry of Kutch to find overseas market. We are told that Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also making similar demands with their government,” Fadke told The Indian Express on Friday.
While the western border between the two countries has remained peaceful as compared to Line of Control in the north, the two neighbours are yet to sort out their differentiating claims over Sir Creek area in Kutch.
Besides reopening of the trade route with Pakistan, FOKIA has also demanded better rail and air connectivity for Kutch with the rest of the India. After 2001 earthquake in the district, Kutch has seen rapid industrialisation thanks to tax holidays and availability of land as well two major ports—Kandla and Mundra.