India,Pak begin talks on boosting bilateral trade through rail route

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New Delhi, Jun 17 (UNI) Seeking to boost bilateral trade through rail route and streamline passenger services, India and Pakistan today began their two-day talks here to take stock of the entire gamut of railway operations between the two countries.

A major focus of the talks was India's demand to increase frequency of freight trains to give a fillip to bilateral trade by introducing goods trains on the Munabao-Khokrapar passenger route.

On the other hand, Pakistan has been demanding extension of the Munabo-Khokrapar passenger train up to Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan, one of the holiest Muslim shrines in India.

At the talks, the nine-member Indian delegation was led by Mr R L Verma, Additional Member (Traffic) while the seven-member Pakistani delegation was headed by Mr Shafique Ullah Khan, Director, Operations, and included Chief Operating Superintendent Muhammad Saleem and Chief Marketing Freight Syed Imtiaz Hussain.

The railway officials of India and Pakistan hold this meeting every six months to discuss operational matters. The last meeting was held in Pakistan in April 2007.

A railway official said the two sides discussed the entire gamut of operational matters, including the proposal of a possible increase in the frequency of freight trains to boost bilateral trade. Today's talks last two hours.

An increase in the capacity of the passenger trains running between the two countries on daily basis and extension of freight trains beyond Lahore and Amritsar were also on the agenda.

Another proposal is to increase freight train frequency to four from the present two per day on the Amritsar-Lahore route. At present, India exports animal feed while Pakistan exports cement on this route.

The official said the two sides would also discuss a proposal to run freight train on the Jodhpur-Munnabao-Kokrajhar section and increase frequency of Thar Express.

The official also said the minutes would be signed on thursday after the final round of talks. Tomorrow, the Pakistani delegation is slated to visit the Taj Mahal.

UNI/SKS ARB RK1929

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