Leading Pakistani political parties have agreed to improve trade relations with India but a lack of consensus exists on part of the Indian leadership regarding better trade relations with Pakistan, said Dr Ishrat Husain, the dean and director at Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
Husain was addressing a conference on “Normalising Pak-India Trade” held in Karachi, which was attended by leading businessmen of India and Pakistan. The conference was jointly organised by IBA, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
“Whenever Pakistan and India talk, political issues are central to their agenda,” said Hussain. “We have to change this sequence and give priority to economic issues in discussions. Improvement in economic relations will provide a platform where the two countries can look for solutions to their problems peacefully.”
The former State Bank of Pakistan governor also stressed upon the need of improvement in trade and commerce between the two neighbours to alleviate 400 million people, who are living below the poverty line in India and Pakistan.
He cited the example of China. “China has shown us in the last few decades — how a country with a large population can improve the financial levels of millions of people with improved trade and commerce relations.”
Stressing on the need for regional trade, he said it will benefit both the economies of India and Pakistan. “The regional trade among South Asian countries is just 5% whereas it is 56% in East Asia and Association of South East Asian Countries (ASEAN) region.”
The program was attended by various Indian representatives. The event was organised in four different sessions including banking, textiles, agriculture and general non-tariff barriers in trade.
“I think the trade relations of India and Pakistan are improving. I hope the two countries will soon start benefitting from each other’s expertise,” said Pradeep Shegal, an Indian businessman who is importing textile chemicals from Pakistan for the last six years.
Experts said that the two governments should assist businessmen, academics and citizens of the two countries to meet more frequently and reduce the mutual mistrust. But this improvement in relations is hindered by strict visa requirements, lack of banking channels and general bureaucratic mistrust.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2013.