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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
S Asia rivals' border trade woes
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh

Indian porter passes garlic consignment to a Pakistani porter
New border traffic reflects improving diplomatic relations
The week-old trade in vegetables and livestock from India to Pakistan is running into problems.

Border officials have met to discuss concerns that livestock may litter the previously pristine ceremonial border post at Wagah with dung.

Exporters have also complained about the lack of quarantine facilities on the Pakistani side.

Pakistan lifted the ban on certain Indian imports to meet rising demand and to check prices.

Subdued start

Despite the fact that it had taken the two nuclear-capable neighbours more than five decades to open road trade, neither side made any particular fanfare when the first truckloads of fresh Indian garlic were carted into Pakistan last week.

The exports became possible after a decision by the federal government of Pakistan in May permitting private traders to import fresh garlic, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and livestock for meat.

Border ceremony at Wagah
Wagah is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan
But, just a week after shipments began Indian exporters have already encountered several hurdles filling orders for buffalo, sheep and goats.

Most of these arise from the fact that Wagah has until now essentially been a ceremonial border, where each evening armed soldiers from the two sides enact a particularly hostile parade while lowering their respective flags to the sounding of bugles.

Wagah is just not equipped to handle large trade consignments both in terms of space as well as manpower.

Traders in the city of Amritsar say the export of live animals will require space for a proper cattle enclosure and facilities to monitor the health of the livestock.

According to one exporter, who has received orders for 20,000 buffalo, goats and sheep, there are as yet no proper quarantine facilities on the Pakistani side of the border.

Rajdeep Uppal said that the delays, although frustrating, were understandable since this was the very first time that livestock exports had been allowed.

Dung patrol

According to the exporter, border guards on both sides have also raised concerns about maintaining cleanliness.

A cow
Cross border trade does not include cows, considered holy by Hindus
They fear that the presence of hundreds of live animals will litter the spic and span border post with dung and render it unusable for the evening retreat.

Officials in Amritsar discussed the problem at an emergency meeting at the local deputy commissioner's office on Monday.

The possibility of constructing a separate passage for trade is now being considered.

But even as officials on both sides try and tackle the initial hurdles, traders in Amritsar are very keen to make an early start.

Mr Uppal said he plans to send "a small test consignment" early next week to see how things go.


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