With the decision of the Indian and Pakistan governments to open the Kartarpur corridor, the demand for opening traditional trade routes on the International Border (IB), plugged after the Partition, has gained momentum.
Traders and industrialists in the Jammu region have decided to intensify the stir for the opening of the historical Sialkot-Suchetgarh route to start business with Pakistan to boost the economy of the region.
“The decision of the two governments to open the Kartarpur corridor is a welcome step and it has given a ray of hope to people of Jammu that traditional routes of the IB will also be opened in the coming days,” said Rakesh Gupta, president, Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCI), Jammu, maintaining, “Traders and industrialists of the region would be benefitted only if the Sialkot-Suchetgarh route will be opened for trade.”
Before 1947, the Sialkot-Suchetgarh road was one of the busiest trade routes in the region and there was a train service between Jammu to Sialkot to carry goods and passengers. From Suchetgarh village, which is about 30 km from Jammu city, Sialkot town of Pakistan is just 11 km. Similarly, Lahore is situated 142 km away from Suchetgarh village of Jammu.
“People of Jammu have cultural similarities with residents of Sialkot and many divided families live on both sides of the IB,” Gupta pointed out and said the opening of the route would boost the social, economical and cultural relations between the two neighbouring nations.
“Many products from Jammu are exported to Pakistan via Dubai. By opening this route, traders of both India and Pakistan would be benefitted,” Gupta said.
“There is no custom duty on the cross-LoC trade, but the list of business is confined only to a few items,” he said. “If the Suchetgarh-Sialkot route opens on the pattern of the Wagah border, traders from Jammu can do a direct business with their counterparts in Pakistan,” he said.
Terming the decision of the Pakistan and Indian governments as “historic”, Surinder Choudhary, senior PDP leader, reiterated the demand for opening more trading points on the IB and the LoC. “There is no logic in keeping the Suchetgarh-Sialkot route closed when the Indian and Pakistan governments have decided to open the Kartarpur corridor,” he said.
Other traditional trade routes such as Jhangar-Mirpur-Kotli in Rajouri and the Skardu-Kargil routes in Kargil should also be opened for business and crossing, he said. “The opening of traditional routes on the IB and the LoC will boost tourism in the state in general and the Jammu region in particular,” he said.