LAHORE -  Pakistan-India cross-border trade through Wagha is continuing despite tension between the two countries, as more than 200 trucks crossed the border on Thursday.

Market sources said that on average around 60 to 70 trucks loaded with tomatoes are coming daily to Pakistan from India while Pakistan is sending almost 150 truckloads, carrying cement, salt, gypsum and dry dates, to India through Wagha trade route.

Trade between India and Pakistan has been moving smoothly despite the cross-border firing along the line of control (LOC), escalating tension and overshadowing the resumption of the dialogue process for normalisation of bilateral relations. In fact, traders from both sides have been asking for upgradation of infrastructure to keep pace with expanding trade, especially through the Wagha-Attari land route.

The bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is going on the basis of demand and supply, local market sources said. “Presently, our demand of tomato is not so high, as the vegetable is being supplied from Kabul, Balochistan and Swat,” they added.

“Owing to normal demand, around 60 to 70 trucks of tomatoes are coming from India,” said Amin Bhatti, president of Punjab Fruits and Vegetables Importers & Exporters Association. He said when demand is high the number of trucks even cross the figure of 300 from India, carrying different vegetable items. “For instance, on Eid days, the figure of truckloads from India was standing at around of 306 due to high demand of tomatoes in Punjab particularly in Lahore,” Amin Bhatti added.

However, in July last year, the bilateral trade between Pakistan and India had felt the heat of mounting tension between the two arch rivals, as the cross-border movement of truckloads through Wagah-Attari route had nosedived. According to the Pakistan Customs officials, the number of trucks crossing over from India had reduced significantly to just 7-10 from the normal routine of 150-200 truckloads due to non-tariff barriers from Pakistan including security high alert, customs checking, Rangers inspection and close investigation of phytosanitary quarantine department.

Following the suicide attack in November 2014 at Wagah border, the Pakistan Rangers beefed up security measures, creating an atmosphere of high alert, removing all offices of customs clearing agents, importers and exporters, with vigorous investigation of all consignment from Indian side. As a result, the volume of export from India sharply dropped, however, the number of truckloads going from Pakistan to India remained almost constant in the range of about 100, officials said.

They said that despite current tension on the LoC, the cross-Line of Control trade on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road is also continuing.

Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Iftikhar Malik has urged both Islamabad and New Delhi to resolve issues through dialogue and defuse the escalating tension on the border as war is no solution to disputes. He said that India had escalated tension on the western border and blamed Pakistan for the Uri attack without any investigation in a bid to hide the violence and bloodshed carried out by its forces in the India-held Kashmir.

He said that both the states should resolve issues through diplomatic channels, adding that the entire world was witness to the violence on innocent Kashmiris by Indian forces where curfew had been clamped for the past over 70 days.

Iftikhar Malik said that the Pakistan Army, backed by the entire nation, had the capacity to respond to any challenge and it would not let India to sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He also condemned India for pulling out of the upcoming Saarc summit in Islamabad. Pakistan had offered dialogue to India for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, but the offer was rejected. The 19th Saarc summit is due to be held in November this year. In response after India’s withdrawal from the upcoming Saarc summit, he termed the Indian announcement as unfortunate.

Saarc CCI vice president said that Pakistan remained always committed to peace and regional cooperation. “We will continue to work to that end in the larger interest of the people of this region,” he added.

Chairman of LCCI Standing Committee on Pak-India Trade Aftab Vohra said that Pakistani industry particularly in Punjab has enhanced its capacity in view of catering Indian Punjab’s market. “Now Pakistan has increased its export to India through value addition. Earlier, it was sending traditional items of dry dates, gypsum, cement and raw fabrics. After keeping in view of the demand of Indian Punjab, the Lahore, Gujranwala and Faislabad industry has developed itself, installing new machinery and enhancing capacity to add more value to their products,” he said. He further said that Pakistan is presently exporting textile industry chemicals, finished glass and finished fabrics with high value addition.

He claimed that now Pakistan has put non-tariff barriers in place for Indian exporters, as it is vigorously involving phytosanitary quarantine department to check the quality of food items coming from India.

“Most of the consignments are rejected and wasted at the border and dozens of shipments forced to return back after health related checking.” These measures have been adopted by the security as well as other agencies amidst mounting tension between the two neighbours, an importer of fruits and vegetables, who did not want his name to be mentioned, claimed.