The newly-formed government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen in improving relations with all members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
This was stated by Tridivesh Singh Maini, an India-based policy analyst and researcher who delivered a lecture at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute on the evolving political economy of India-Pakistan relations on Thursday.
Maini revealed that political will for improving bilateral ties exists in India but some bureaucratic hurdles still remain which are bound lessen if the two countries pursue a path of building mutual trust.
He termed improvement in the visa regime, opening up more transit routes and facilitating the reunion of divided families as important things in this aspect.
He laid emphasis on the need for greater land connectivity between the two countries, saying logistical issues and poor communication linkages act as barriers which restrict trade opportunities. Talking about a greater need for liberalisation in the neighbours’ relationship, Maini said, “Before we run we must first learn to walk.”
A large part of the credit for the improved economic relations goes to the chambers of commerce on both sides which have forged strong linkages and improved people to people contact, he added.
He said while there have been significant leaps in the last decade, with trade and commerce via the Wagha-Attari border witnessing a significant increase, there is a dire need to open more land crossings. With the current Indian government’s emphasis on economic development and greater integration within the region, it is likely that bilateral trade will increase.
Ending his speech, Maini said over the past decade and a half, there has been continuity in India’s policy of sustained engagement with Pakistan and successive regimes in New Delhi have shown imagination in dealing with Pakistan, especially in the economic realm.
He admitted that there have been setbacks in the process but stressed that economic ties have carried on and hoped that this would continue and improve.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2014.
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