India’s deputy high commissioner to Pakistan said on Wednesday that New Delhi too was worried about the escalating tensions triggered by ongoing border skirmishes.
Speaking at a meeting during his maiden visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), JP Singh said there was common understanding in both India and Pakistan that dialogue was the only way forward for the two countries. At the same time, however, he said “talks and terrorism cannot take place together.”
“We want peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan… but dialogue can’t progress under the shadow of terrorism,” Singh said, repeating the oft-repeated mantra of Indian officials that Pakistan should act against terrorists on its soil if it wanted to pursue peace dialogue with India.
Singh, who took over as deputy high commissioner in August, said it was part of Indian Premier Narendra Modi’s vision to move along taking the whole region forward. “He has always focused on having greater economic, trade and investment relations with countries around the world, especially our neighbours.”
Referring to Indo-Pak trade relations, Singh said that while there was a lot of potential for increasing bilateral trade between the two countries, there were various policy, regulatory and logistic issues.
“We would like to open the Monabao-Khokhrapar border for trade and we are developing state-of-the-art facilities at Wagah border from our side,” he said. “Pakistan must also do the same and upgrade facilities on its side of the border.”
Replying to a question pertaining to rising complaints of rejection and delays in issuance of visas, Singh said there has been no change in the Indian visa issuance policy during the past three months and the delays were due to some procedures. He added that the Indian High Commission was trying to streamline its visa operations and plans to establish a call centre for visa inquiries in order to facilitate Pakistanis.
He assured that the High Commission would give special consideration to visa applicants recommended by the KCCI.
Speaking on the occasion, Chairman Businessmen Group and former KCCI president Siraj Kassam Teli said that instead of depending on governments, politicians and bureaucracies, the business communities on both sides must lead the way. He was fairly optimistic that Indo-Pak business communities can play a positive role in resolving issues as compared to what the governments, militaries and bureaucracies of the two countries have done so far.
He expressed optimism that he will surely be able to convince the business communities of India and Pakistan to take up various issues as both want to have strong and long-lasting relations with each other.
“The people and business communities don’t care what their governments or militaries want… the only thing they want is to have good relations with each other,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.
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