Cement shipment properly sealed: India

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LAHORE: India has admitted that the wagon carrying cement from Pakistan in the last week of October, in which heroin was found, was properly sealed when it had crossed the Wagah border to reach the Atari border, said sources. According to sources, the wagon’s seal was broken when it reached Amritsar, thereby proving that it was broken on the Indian side, while Indian officials acknowledged this fact during investigation.

On the other hand, after the incident, cement export to India through railway wagons has been completely halted as in the absence of adequate security measures the cement manufacturers prefer to discontinue sending dispatches through rail routes, added the sources.

Currently, cement is being exported to India through trucks only, which remains under the control of exporters before crossing the border. However, the trucks are accepted by the Indian authorities in small numbers, thus resulting in declining export dispatches.

Amid the situation when cement exports are already on a decline, the decision by manufacturers of not using the rail link will further decrease the number of dispatches to India. More importantly, Cement dispatches for October 2012 declined by 5.87 percent due to a drastic decline of 20.59 percent in the export of cement to Afghanistan, India and other destinations. Export to India declined by 37.51 percent to 0.158 million tons.

The domestic industry expected to increase cement export to India by up to five million tons after the opening of land route and rail link, but went to the back foot after this incident. Furthermore, non-tariff barriers from India along with the allegations of smuggling of narcotics, is making this option highly unfavourable to Pakistan’s cement industry.

The seizure of narcotics during the past four months from the trains carrying Pakistani exports through Wagah border was a blow to bilateral trade between India and Pakistan, which could derail the trade liberalisation process.

Pakistani cement manufacturers have also approached the customs and the Railways to take stringent measures to curb this menace. Additional Collector Customs Lahore Region assured that the manufacturers that customs will take measures to eliminate chances of narcotics sneaked into cement consignments. He, however, added that 105 kg narcotics seized by the Indian customs at Amritsar cannot be blamed on Pakistan as the wagon from which the drug was seized was sealed when it crossed the border. The seal was broken inside the Indian border where the responsibility lies with the Indians.

The spokesman for cement manufacturers, APCMA, said that since these episodes adversely affected cement exports, Pakistan’s Customs and the Railway authorities had agreed to increase vigilance and take more stringent measures to eliminate the chances of drugs going into India through Wagah.

However, the cement manufacturers found that the Customs and Railways failed to set up fool proof safety measures in this regard, he added. “The manufacturers had been denied cement orders for long periods by the Indian importers as the Indian authorities grilled the importers whenever any narcotics were found in their consignment,” he said. “The cement manufacturing association believed that the Pakistani authorities did take some measures immediately after the meeting, but perhaps due to lack of staff, the arrangements fizzled out after some time.”

The industry, instead of risking the suspension of total cement exports, decided to limit exports through trucks only, he added. “Only limited quantity of cement could be exported through trucks as clearance of these vehicles at the Indian border post at Wagah is very slow,” he said. “One wagon carries more cement across the border than ten trucks. The suspension of cement exports due to inability of the authorities to ensure safe sealing of Railway wagons is badly hurting the cement exports to India.”

Courtesy: The News

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