Pakistan on Monday called for a ‘new era’ in economic collaboration with India, as business leaders from the two countries met for a business conference.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the population of its giant neighbour offered his country’s exporters a “billion-plus market”, adding normal trade relations were vital to Pakistan achieving its economic potential.
Trade between the countries has been hampered by restrictions and tariffs — even now, direct cross-border traffic accounts for less than one percent of their global commerce.
But Gilani said: “We want to start a new era of economic collaboration with India… so that we leave behind a legacy of peace and prosperity for our future generations.”
He told delegates there were many areas and sectors with huge trade potential, from information technology to engineering, education and health.
“Our textiles, I am told, have a huge market across the border,” he said, adding that India could find a market in Pakistan for goods including chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering products.
The premier also said Pakistan is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with India through dialogue.
“We want all our core issues settled through dialogue on equitable basis,” Gilani said while addressing the inaugural session of a two-day ‘Aman Ki Asha Business Conference’.
Underlining the commitment shown by the business communities of both countries, the PM said peace and normalization of relations between the two countries towards a peaceful and prosperous future was the only way forward.
“The world is marching on and it is time for us to shed the baggage of the past and grab the opportunity at hand and act with urgency to build relations of mutual trust.”
Adi Godrej, the Confederation of Indian Industry president who is leading the Indian delegation, said: “By 2015, we should be able to achieve the target of $10 billion mutual trade between India and Pakistan,” adding that matters pertaining to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), non-tariff barriers, energy trade, and opening of air and land trade routes between the two countries needed greater focus.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Business Council (PBC) Chairman Asad Umar also wished for improved trade ties with India and looked forward to ‘a meaningful relationship’ between the neighbours. However, Umar expressed concern about India’s inattention to Pakistan’s textile products, since India was more focused on textile exports from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan has decided to grant India ‘most favoured nation’ trading status by the end of the year, ending strict curbs on what New Delhi can export across their border.
At present, Pakistan maintains a list of 1,945 items allowed to run from India to Pakistan — but only 108 can be transported directly by road through the Wagah crossing in Punjab.
India now also says it is ready to end a ban on investment from Pakistan and the countries are planning to allow multiple-entry business visas to spur exchanges — a key demand by company executives.
Last year India exported goods worth $2.33 billion to Pakistan, while imports from its neighbour were worth $330 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.