Transit trade: Pakistan to open road, rail routes for regional states

December 11, 2013


Pakistan needed to exploit two main and significant resources – the unique geographical position of the country and a population of 180 million. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has stated Pakistan is ready to offer its road and rail routes to all regional countries including China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Bangladesh.

He was speaking to the media after addressing the “Regional Conference on Strengthening Transport Connectivity and Trade Facilitation in South and South-West Asia”.

The conference was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Ministry of Commerce here on Tuesday.

He observed that the opening of the trade corridor was in the best interest of Pakistan. “We have to look at our interests, as we have to eradicate poverty, terrorism and extremism for which an improved and vibrant economy is of vital importance,” he said.

Rafique added Pakistan needed to exploit two main and significant resources – the unique geographical position of the country and a population of 180 million. He stressed that opening up of trade routes for India was also in favour of Pakistan.

“We are still lagging 200 years behind the developed world, therefore, we have to shun orthodox thinking to move forward on all fronts,” he maintained.

Rafique said south and southwest Asia consisted of about half the world population and was rich in mineral deposits besides having importance as a bridge between the North and the South, but its intra-regional trade was negligible.

In fiscal year 2008-09, the intra-regional trade in South Asia was a mere 5% of global trade, which was far below the potential.

The minister stressed the need for exploring and taking optimal benefits from regional trade. Pakistan government, he added, was focusing and working on national and regional connectivity to connect China, India, Central Asia, Middle East and Europe while work on the Gwadar Port was going on at a swift pace.

The minister pointed out that the Torkham-Jalalabad link was of great importance regarding transportation of raw material, while the Quetta-Taftan link would prove to be the best trade corridor to access Iran, Turkey and European markets. Khokhrapar-Monabao (India) link was also being examined for trade.

He said a delegation of the Pakistan Railways would soon visit India to gain knowledge and experience of the Indian rail system, as Delhi had turned its railways into a profitable entity while Pakistan was yet to achieve the goal mainly due to lack of resources.

Pakistan Railways was searching for a foreign partner for investment to improve its infrastructure, he added.


Connectivity of northeast India with Bangladesh to be developed

November 11, 2013


Agartala, : Surface connectivity between India’s northeast region and Bangladesh would be further developed for the economic development of the region, a union minister said here Sunday.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently directed to the concerned ministries to further improve the rail, road, and air connectivity in the northeastern region. The surface connectivity between the region and Bangladesh are being developed,” Oscar Fernandes, Union road transport and highways minister told reporters.
He said: “The central government would accord top priority in developing road, rail and air connectivity in the northeastern region. To strengthen the economy of the northeastern region, improvement of the connectivity within the region and with Bangladesh is very essential.”
Fernandes said that the union commerce ministry would provide funds for the construction of a bridge over the river Feni in southern Tripura’s Sabroom, to get access of the Chittagong international sea port.
The Chittagong port in southeast Bangladesh is just 75 km away from the southern Tripura’s border town Sabroom, 135 km south of Agartala.
The central minister accompanied by senior officials arrived here Sunday and laid the foundation for the double lane of the National Highway 44, the life-line of Tripura’s surface link with the rest of the country.
Responding to the demands of the Tripura government, the minister said that an additional national highway would be developed between Tripura-Assam and rest of the northeastern region. For this, the Tripura government would arrange required lands.
Earlier, the union minister held separate meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury, and senior officials of the central and state Public Works Departments. He reviewed the progress of the highway projects in Tripura.

Good roads make friendly neighbours

November 7, 2013

Global Times |
By Ding Gang

Both China and India have drawn each other’s attention with major moves. India has welcomed a remarkable milestone in the development of its space technology by successfully launching its first Mars orbiter, theMangalyaan.Meanwhile, China extended its highway network to the last untouched county, Motuo, located in southeastern Tibet. The road, which took decades to complete, has provided the once isolated plateau with a gateway to the world.

These two accomplishments are enough to make Indians and Chinese feel proud. However, they seem to have caused mutual suspicion instead, and even been misinterpreted by some netizens as measures against each other.

With rapid development in many areas and in particular defense over the last decade and more, China and India have become more suspicious of each other’s intention, which reflects long-term distrust in their bilateral relationship.

Problems in the Sino-Indian relationship are mainly triggered by boundary demarcation. The foremost way to reduce mutual suspicion is to lay down some basic rules in tackling border issues to control frictions and prevent conflicts.

The Border Defense Cooperation Agreement between India and China signed in Beijing last month marked an important step toward this. If New Delhi and Beijing can strictly abide by the pact and conduct frequent dialogues between officials at different levels near the Line of Actual Control, there will be fewer chances of conflicts.

The two nations can then begin considering how to make substantial progress that promotes business and trade in border areas and benefits the general public.

In recent years, Beijing and New Delhi have been engaged in road projects near border regions, and have also made plans to build railways. Mutual suspicion will increase if the highways and railways cannot be connected between the two countries. But if the two can be connected, the entire region can prosper.

Currently, China and India conduct trade mostly by sea. A large bulk of Tibet’s imports from and exports to India has to pass through the port of Tianjin and then be shipped to the harbors of Calcutta.

If the two countries can connect their highways via Nathu La, a mountain pass in the Himalayas, trading cost will drop enormously. Nathu La is located 460 kilometers from Lhasa, and there are several highways from this historical place to northern India, eastern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.

This trade route boasts great potential. The India-China trade volume in 1957 amounted to a peak of 110 million silver dollars at Nathu La Pass, accounting for more than 80 percent of the total bilateral trading volume.

Another route, which extends about 500 kilometers, could connect Tengchong, Yunnan Province, to Ledo in northeastern India via Myitkyina in Myanmar.

Many businessmen from Myanmar have been transporting Chinese goods to India through this passage over recent years, and there are a variety of Chinese-made products in the markets across India-Myanmar border areas.

Interconnections between western China and northeastern India will not only benefit the two countries, but also be conducive to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor that is now being discussed. Plus, it can help shape a critical economic circle to provide more vigor and dynamism to Asia and the whole world.

In addition, the political role of the new economic zone can not afford to be neglected. As complicated conflicts often occur among a number of ethnic minorities and tribal groups there, it will be difficult to push forward political reconciliation if economic development remains sluggish.

Economic growth is the foundation of addressing these problems, and providing real benefits for the people will facilitate the process of negotiations over the border. Investment and ideas that advance China-India economic and trade cooperation are far more important than building army posts and deploying artillery and planes.

The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily. He is now stationed in Brazil 


Arunachal BJP for ‘defence’ road near China border

October 29, 2013


ITANAGAR: The state BJP unit on Monday demanded that the Centre immediately construct an all-weather “defence” road in Anjaw district of the state keeping in view the threat perception from China in the wake of the recent incursion at Plam Plam near Chaglagam on August 11.”New Delhi should seriously consider the plight of people living along the border areas,” state BJP president Tai Tagak said at a press conference here on Monday.

He said the Centre should immediately construct the 60km stretch of road from Bomten village to the last border post at Chaglagam in Anjaw district.

A BJP team led by Tagak went for a trip to Lohit and Anjaw districts on October 19 to honour Indian soldiers who had laid their lives in the Walong sector during the 1962 Sino-Indian War as part of the party’s Shahid Shradhanjali Yatra.

“We are demanding that the state government construct a war memorial in Itanagar in honour and recognition of the 1,600 soldiers who lost their lives during the Chinese aggression in the Walong sector,” Tagak said.

The team also trekked several kilometers to visit the last Indian village of Kahoo in Anjaw district and collected farming tools from villagers for BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s dream project to construct a statue of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Ballabhai Patel, in Gujarat.

“The statue to be named as the Statue of Unity would be the world’s tallest statue after the Statue of Liberty,” Tagak said.

The team, while interacting with the villagers, came across several loopholes in projects being implemented in the border areas of both the districts, including supply of essentials under the public distribution system, Tagak added.

The party demanded proper augmentation and overhaul of health and education sectors along the borders.

0 km: 60 km along Indo-China border

October 28, 2013

By Pradeep Kumar (ANI)


Itanagar, Oct.26 (ANI): ‘The headline should look like the eyes of a damsel to attract readers’, was a lesson for the mass communication students insofar as reporting is concerned.

I wonder if this headline would stir the readers’ psyche?

A visit to Bumla in Tawang district along the India-China border on October 20, was shockingly disgusting.

Maruti Gypsy and Mahindra’s Scorpio, both sturdy vehicles on hilly roads, found it difficult to negotiate the 45-km road from Tawang to the last border outpost that took almost two hours.

Few patches were only boulders without any sign of road. Travelling along the steep road was a uphill task, well neigh impossible to maneuver that forced the drivers to travel at almost 0 km speed.

This prompted a top ranking IPS officer to comment that the road condition is as it was a decade ago when I visited.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki assured to  take up with the defence ministry for improving the border roads maintained by the BRO for the security of the nation.

This was the status of border road almost  19 months after Defence Minister A K Antony at Itanagar on 20th February 2012 had said that: “By and large, the border is peaceful, and at the same time, India is taking care of strengthening the capabilities to protect our national interest from any kind of challenges from any quarters. The eastern border is safe and we will make it safer, (and) for that, whatever is needed to strengthen our security apparatus, we are taking care of it continuously in a systematic manner.”

“India is strengthening its security capabilities in the eastern border. Along with that, we are also  taking care of the socio-economic development of the border areas. I want to make it amply clear that our security forces are capable of protecting our national interests,” said Antony without mincing any words.

What an irony? For, on arrival at the Bumla Pass, it was learnt that Land Cruisers used by the People’s Liberation Army travel at 60 km speed to reach the black topped road on the other side of the border.

Undoubtedly, Lok Sabha member Ninong Ering had told the floor of the house on April 20 last that the 1962 situation (When India had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of China) still prevailed along the Indo-China border. India and China shares about 3,500 km  border, 1,080 km in Arunachal Pradesh alone.

The union rural development ministry has approved a network of roads and bridges to improve connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh, a decision that comes just ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing and underscores the strategic importance of the bordering state over parts of which China lays claim.

The pre-empowered committee of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Centre’s rural roads programme, has cleared construction of 57 roads and 58 long-span bridges covering 842 km. Of these, 21 roads and 46 bridges are in areas along the India-China border. The projects will cost Rs 819 crore and connect 170 habitations in the state. State agencies and National Building Construction Corporation, a central public sector company, will construct these roads and bridges.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh’s push for strengthening connectivity in international border areas has led to speedy clearances since January for construction of 95 roads and 31 long-span bridges in the state, covering a length of 1,190 km at a cost of Rs 894 crore. The government has approved construction of roads connecting 126 clusters of habitations, each of which have population of less than 250.

The Bumla outpost records upto 15 feet deep snowfall and temperature goes down below -23 degree but the jawans continue to guard the border.

When would good sense prevail upon the New Delhi mandarins is a million dollar question!



Old roads, new highways

October 25, 2013

(AP Other way round: From the Indian point of view, opening more routes is important as it will help create a stronger political consensus for better ties. At the Integrated Check Post at Attari near Amritsar, a line of Pakistani trucks).


India and Pakistan must use the strong peace sentiment on both sides of the border to develop better trade ties


What war could ravish, commercecould bestowAnd he returned a friend, whocame a foe       -Alexander Pope


The India-Pakistan relationship is a complex one, dominated by excessively polarised discourse. Over the past decade or so, one point has become evident. First, strong constituencies for peace between both countries have emerged along the border regions, be they Rajasthan-Sind or the two Punjabs. The enthusiasm with which people responded to Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), such as the Munabao-Khokhrapar train service and bus services connecting Delhi and Lahore and Amritsar-Lahore, are a reiteration of this point. It is a different matter, of course, that logistics issues have prevented both these initiatives from being a success.While in the case of the Punjab, opening up trade at the Wagah-Attari route and setting up the Integrated Check Post have got businessmen on both sides of the Radcliffe Line interested, some logistics issues persist. There is also a desire to open the Hussainiwala (Ferozepur)-Ganda Singh route, which was active before the 1971 war. This will be relevant especially in the context of the potential for petroleum trade between both countries, since the Bhatinda oil refinery, inaugurated in April 2012 by the Indian Prime Minister, is only 100 km from Hussainiwala. With the politics of Punjab being dominated by the Malwa belt, and the current Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, being an MLA from Ferozepur, support for opening up this route is only likely to increase. The leather industry, which contributes 5.4 per cent of overall export earnings, will also benefit from the same trade route as Kasur city, adjacent to Ganda Singh and 60 km from Lahore, is a hub of tanneries in Punjab.Makes business, political sense

In Rajasthan-Sind, while the train service is chugging along, trade through the Munabao-Khokhrapar route is yet to open, though there is strong support for it. This route too could come in handy for petroleum trade, since gas has been discovered at Barmer.

Opening up these two borders would make sense from the business point of view, and come in handy politically for a number of reasons. North India will benefit more through land trade vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Currently, trade is only allowed through the Wagah-Attari land route; other road links are ignored. Barki road connecting Lahore-Patti, the Kasur-Firozpur roads at the Ganda Singh border, the Sahiwal/Pakpattan road link with Fazlika, Head Sulemanki and Multan borders, have the potential to enhance Punjab-to-Punjab trade manifold.

In the Pakistan context, Ganda Singh strengthens the pro-trade constituency in Punjab. In fact recently a delegation from Indian Punjab met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was enthusiastic about the idea. Apart from this, opening up the Raj-Sind border would assuage feelings in Sind, especially for those who believe Punjab will benefit from India-Pakistan trade while other States will be left behind.

If one were to look from the Indian side, opening more routes is important since this will help create a stronger political consensus for better ties. While Punjab is already ruled by the Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rajasthan too could get a BJP government in the aftermath of the December Assembly elections. In addition to this, by opening up the Rajasthan-Sind border, businessmen from neighbouring States such as Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat which are BJP-dominated would also benefit. Currently, traders from Madhya Pradesh have to go all the way to the Wagah route.

Existing as well as new markets have the potential to achieve the highest targets. The existing market, worth $13 billion, comprises smuggling and personal baggage. Therefore, the legalisation of trade would help the government of Pakistan earn revenue in the form of import duties. The key to the economic success of a country is promoting regional trade. However, Pakistan’s regional trade is less than five per cent of the total. Millions of dollars can be earned if more trade routes are opened.

Land over sea

A study carried out in 2006 estimated that over 80 per cent of firms are forced to trade through the Karachi-Mumbai sea route, even if they are located in the border station of Amritsar. Similarly, the Sind-Rajasthan border can connect Rajasthan and Gujarat with Sind, which has huge potential to enhance trade between both countries by the land route. The Munabao-Khokhrapar rail route can lessen the burden on the Karachi-Mumbai sea route, which is the most common, formal trade route between India and Pakistan. It will also save time and money as the sea route requires cargo ships to touch a third-country port before bringing in goods.

The Pakistan Army, being a strong and influential stakeholder, can be brought into the loop as it has a vested interest in the economic structure. This way, India-Pakistan business and people-to-people contact may be enhanced, and stringent visa policies may get relaxed.

(Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based columnist, and Usman Shahid, a Lahore-based journalist and researcher.  )



MOU signed between India and China on cooperation in roads and road transportation

October 24, 2013

MOU signed between India and China on cooperation in roads and road transportation





Bejing: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China, herein after referred to as the ‘Participants’,


Recognizing the significant mutual benefit that can be derived by the Participants from cooperation on roads and road transportation matters;


Recognizing the common objective of developing and promoting safe, efficient, cost effective and sustainable road transportation systems;


Recognizing the importance of roads and road transportation in the economic development process of each Participant country, within their respective national policy framework;


Have reached the following understanding:
Article 1
Principles and Objectives of Cooperation
1. Under the framework of this Memorandum of Understanding (‘Memorandum’), the Participants will undertake cooperation on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit.
2. The purpose of this Memorandum is to establish a long-term and effective relationship of communication and cooperation in Roads and Road Transportation.


Article 2
For the purpose of this Memorandum,
a. ‘Road ‘ means the National Highways of the respective countries.
b. ‘Road Transportation’ means transportation of both passengers and goods by road but excludes urban transport.


Article 3
Areas of Cooperation
The Participants will cooperate in the fields of roads and road transportation in the following areas:
a. Exchange and sharing of knowledge and cooperation in the areas of transportation technology, transport policy, for passenger and freight movement by roads;
b. Planning, administration and management of road infrastructure, technology and standards for roads/highways construction and maintenance;
c. Sharing of information and best practices for developing road safety plans and road safety intervention strategies, and outreach activities aimed at reducing deaths and injuries resulting from road accidents, through:
(i) Exchange and sharing of knowledge in Intelligent Transport System;
(ii) Sharing of information and best practices on increasing vehicle safety oversight, and safety fitness framework for the vehicle testing and certification system;
d. Sharing of knowledge and best practices in user fee (toll) related issues; including the modern system, technologies and methods of levying of user fee and collection including Electronic Toll Collection System;
e. Sharing of information in areas of improved technologies and materials in road and bridge construction, including joint research;
f. Sharing the experience on contractual frameworks, financing and procurement issues, particularly related to Public Private Partnerships (PPP) mode;
g. Any other area of bi-lateral cooperation, mutually agreed by the Participants.


Article 4
Ways of cooperation
1. The cooperation under this Memorandum will be carried out through the following ways:
a. Consultations at expert level about specific cooperation issues upon the requests of the Participants;
b. Organizing exchange visits for technical experts;
c. Organizing technical exchanges by way of joint organization of workshops/ seminars/conferences, etc;
d. Exchange of relevant technical materials in accordance with the provisions of the respective laws and regulations and information of policies, laws and regulations;
e. Mutual provision of information relating to transport infrastructure construction projects in their own country;
f. To undertake relevant scientific and technical research in the institutes from both countries including joint research in the identified areas of cooperation.
g. Any other method of cooperation as mutually agreed upon.
2. Whenever necessary, the Participants will discuss and jointly determine the detailed arrangement of the cooperation activities specified in Paragraph 1 of this Article.


Article 5
1. Coordination Organizations:
International Cooperation Wing of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China will carry out the coordination of activities under this Memorandum;
2. Implementation Mechanism:
a. The Participants agree to constitute a Joint Working Group (JWG) to oversee the implementation of this Memorandum and to identify specific cooperation activities and services under this Memorandum.
b. The JWG will deal with all questions related to the implementation of this Memorandum and resolve the difficulties that might arise in the course of implementation of this Memorandum.
c. The members of this JWG will be nominated by the Participants. The JWG will meet, as per mutual agreement, alternately in China and in India.
d. Where possible and appropriate, the Participants will facilitate the involvement of other institutions and organizations in the cooperation activities under this Memorandum, both in the government and private sectors.


Article 6
The Participants agreed that each government shall bear its own administrative costs for the implementation of this Memorandum. Specific financial procedures will be negotiated for certain cooperation activities as needed. Any contract or separate detailed arrangements for such activities will be jointly determined by the Participants.


Article 7
1. The Participants agreed that prior approval shall be sought of the other participant before the use of any publicity or presentational material by any of the Participants and executive agencies as are allowed to participate under Article 4 of this Memorandum.
2. Scientific and Technical information of a non-proprietary nature derived from the cooperative activities conducted under this Memorandum may be made available to the public through customary channels and, in accordance with, the normal procedures of the Participants, and other governmental entities involved in the cooperative activities.


Article 8
Information and documentation received by either of the Participants as a result of cooperation under this Memorandum within their respective regulatory and legislative framework will not be given to a third party without the prior written consent of the originator. The Participants accept that either Participant may be subject to legal obligations concerning the disclosure of information relating to this Memorandum within their respective regulatory and legislative framework but will nonetheless ensure the other Participant is informed prior to any disclosure subject to the provisions for ‘Confidentiality’ under this Memorandum, wherever applicable.


Article 9
Any dispute about the interpretation or application of this Memorandum will be resolved by consultations between the Participants, and will not be referred to any national or international tribunal or third party for settlement. If the Participants are unable to resolve the dispute, either Participant may terminate this Memorandum in accordance with Article 11 or such shorter period as may be decided between the Participants.


Article 10
Nature of the Memorandum
1. This Memorandum is not legally binding on either of the Participants.
2. This Memorandum will not generate any public/international law obligations for the Participants.
3. All activities developed under this Memorandum are subject to existing laws and regulations of the respective country of the Participants, and to the availability of necessary funds and resources.


Article 11
Entry into Force, Validity, Termination, Interpretation and Amendment
The Participants agree to the following provisions:


1. Entry into Force : 
This Memorandum shall enter into force on the date of its signature and will remain valid for a period of five years and shall be extended by another five years, upon their mutual written consent, at least six(6) months before expiry of the validity of this Memorandum.


2. Amendment to the Memorandum: 
This Memorandum may be amended by mutual written consent of the Participants. Any amendments thereto shall enter into force on the date of signing of such consent.


3. Termination Provision: 
a. The Memorandum may be terminated by either of the Participants at any time by giving sixty (60) days advance written notice to the other Participant.
b. Unless otherwise agreed in written form, the termination of this MOU shall not affect the validity of any ongoing project or activity implemented in accordance with this Memorandum.
c. The Participants will determine how the outstanding matters should be dealt with on the basis of mutual consultation.