SRINAGAR: India may not quite approve of it, but some of the cement being used in the buildings of Kashmir is coming from Pakistan these days. Even Indian Army fortifications in Kashmir are being built with Pakistani cement.
Cement factories in Kashmir being shut because of the anti-India uprising, the Indian Army is procuring cement that is imported from Pakistan through the Wagah border, and which comes to Kashmir from dealers in Punjab. Kashmiris say that importing the cement through the Line of Control in Kashmir would be a much cheaper and simpler way, but cement is still off the list of trade items allowed for ‘barter’ between the Indian-held Kashmir and the Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Muhammad Altaf, a resident of Srinagar’s Jawahar Nagar area, said that Pakistani cement was cheaper than Indian cement.
“A leading Indian brand is sold at Rs 550 per bag, but the Pakistani one is sold at Rs 480-500,” he said.
One of the main dealers in the suburbs of Srinagar said that there was shortage of cement in the market and to cater to the demand, cement is being imported from dealers in Punjab, who are sending Pakistan-made cement that comes through the Wagah border. He said that several grey and white cement brands are imported from Pakistan as they are of “top quality”.
“In the past we got Elephant brand cement from Pakistan, and now it is PAKCEM, a top-quality Portland cement from Pakcem Limited, the largest cement manufacturer in Pakistan,” he said.
The contractors who work for the army are also preferring the Pakistan brand. The army had been using cement produced by a local unit in Kashmir, but since the shutdown in Kashmir, the army buildings are being built with Pakistani cement.
“Our importers say that the Pakistani cement is not only used across north India and other places, but it also reaches south Indian states,” a contractor said, adding that imports from Pakistan are regulated to safeguard domestic producers.
Cement, however, is not among the approved trading items in the LoC barter trade.
LoC traders have been asking for allowing imports of cement from Pakistan as it could lead to economical constructions. Sardar Kishan Singh, general secretary of the LoC Traders’ Association in Chakanda Bagh, Poonch, said that though cement was not on the list of 21 tradable commodities across the LoC, its trade could lessen the cost of construction in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.