Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal said that the interior ministries of India and Pakistan are expected to reach some agreement to soften the present tough visa regime to promote trade and tourism in the two countries.
While addressing the top concerns of the business community at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Saturday, he said the interior ministries of both countries have met twice in recent months which should lead towards s decision soon.
Sabharwal also tried to convince the business community that India does not discriminate against Pakistani exporters. “Many of the non-tariff barriers are not Pakistan specific. Some perceived non-tariff barriers are regarding quality control and packing issues that are uniform for all countries,” he said.
“I assure that you that India will try to remove all trade irritants to boost trade between the two countries,” he vowed.
Pakistani exporters blame India for creating undue hurdles to discourage exports and claim that this is why trade balance is heavily in favour of India. From the present $2.7 billion bilateral trade, Pakistan’s exports to India are just less than $300 million.
Sabharwal further informed that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s vision is to transform South Asia with the cooperation of all neighbouring countries of India, including Pakistan, the region moves from poverty to prosperity and from ignorance to a knowledgeable society.
He said the Pakistani and Indian Commerce Ministers, in their recent talks, had agreed to double bilateral trade from the current level of $2.7 billion to $6 billion as a first step and mandated to further strengthen cooperation for a high ambition of preferential trade relations under the framework of South Asian Free Trade Area.
On communication lines, he said deliberations are underway to improve infrastructure of land routes and open trade from Monabao-Khokrapar border.
KCCI President Mian Abrar Ahmadm while welcoming Sabharwal, said “we at KCCI firmly believe that both countries will have to demonstrate greater political will to foster relations”. It is the need of the hour that both governments besides opening new trading routes should consider connecting Mumbai with Karachi through air and sea links, he said, adding “Our businesspersons are serious in importing goods and raw-material what is being imported from other countries owing to lower costs and minimum logistics charges”.
He further said it is the time to converge the interest to regional trade because Pakistani exporters are keen to diversify exports from the saturated western markets.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2011.