Improving trade and investment relations between India and Pakistan is of topmost priority, according to the Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir.
Bashir said Pakistan is “committed” in normalizing two-way bilateral trade with India which will also help in bringing prosperity to the region. He said that Pakistan will do all it can in order to remove the hurdles that are hampering this process to take off successfully.
“The vision for this cooperation in trade between the two countries needs to have some degree of pragmatism built into it. Let us not create much of an argument on the merits that are ought to take place in normalizing the trading relationship. Improved trading relationship remains a priority for us in our foreign policy,” Bashir said while giving a lecture on ‘Normalising India-Pakistan Trade’ organized by ICRIER here today.
The High Commissioners also added that during the last meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif that took place in New York in September, both sides have vowed to resume the trade dialogue once again. The India-Pakistan joint ministerial group has also been revived, Bashir added.
The dialogue to increase trade flows have suffered a major setback after a recent spate of incidents of cease-fire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) have come to light.
The event also saw participation by both former commerce secretaries of India and Pakistan, Rahul Khullar and Zafar Mahmood, who were instrumental in resuming this dialogue between both neighbors in 2011.
According to Khullar, now chairman Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there remains huge potential in liberalizing the trading regime between the two neighbours. He stressed on opening up the land routes so that trade across the borders can happen smoothly.
“There has to be a Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA) between the two. This will also help in curbing indirect trade that is happening through Dubai. New nascent sectors will bloom. We have to look at the gains in terms of margins,” stressed Khullar.
According to Mahmood, who is now the chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission, if Pakistan could throw open its markets for China, then it should not be apprehensive of liberalizing trade with India. He also suggested creation of an India-Pakistan-Europe economic corridor through Turkey similar to the Pakistan-China economic corridor.
“The dialogue process will restart very soon and it will be a composite dialogue. It is necessary to resume the dialogue for prosperity of the region and South Asia at large,” he said.
In February 2012 the Pakistan cabinet had given in-principle approval to grant the most-favoured nation (MFN) trade status to India, heralding a new era in India-Pakistan trade with the promise of officially giving the status by December 2012. But it did not meet the deadline.
It was widely expected that the new government will take major strides in smoothening the bilateral trade ties. India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) norms, member countries are mandated to give this status to each other on a reciprocal basis.
Two-way trade between India and Pakistan stood at $2.35 billion in 2012-2013 with the target of scaling it up to $6 billion by end of this fiscal.