ISLAMABAD - Leaders of India's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), who are on visit to Pakistan on Sunday underlined the need for initiating dialogue to promote free trade and revive cricket ties between the two countries.

The initiative would help end poverty in the South Asian region, they said while speaking here at 'Meet The Press' organised by the National Press Club (NPC). They said that free trade between India and Pakistan was 'need of the hour' as it would help cut the cost of import.

Senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly said that there was the need to have a liberal visa regime to facilitate people of the two countries to utilise it at weekends. Without bridging the trust deficit, removing barricades and forging political will, he said that improved bilateral ties were not possible. Highlighting importance of increased people-to-people contacts, he said that without the same there could be no cooperation between the two nuclear States.

Vijay, whose forefathers migrated to India from Lahore at the time of partition, said that his father had given a page containing address of the native home to visit it during the visit. "It was a pleasant and emotional experience when I saw my native home in Krishna Street, Shah Alam Gate - the walled City of Lahore," he added. He said that his family and friends had suggested him not to visit Pakistan, calling it dangerous for the Indians. However, found all such notions wrong, he said. He found Lahore and Islamabad the most lively cities of the world where culture and heritage were preserved in their best form. Vijay Mehta, another member of the delegation, said,"We want to replace mistrust with trust and become partners in development." The "ocean" of poverty on both sides could only be alleviated by the cooperation, he added.

He said that there was great potential for trade between the two countries as there was need to explore it. For the purpose "we need to break the ice, end despondency and start." He expressed the hope that soon Indian Prime Minister Nirendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif would meet at the UN and then the process of talks would start. "I am hopeful that eventually Pakistan and India will start playing cricket matches. It can happen soon or may take some time. But it will happen," he added. Lubna Asif, journalist and BJP leader, said that a visa-free travel arrangement should be initiated between India and Pakistan as increased people-to-people contacts could only eliminate hatred between the two countries. Peace between the two neighbours was a necessity, said Lubna, who is also President of All India Youth Minorities Front. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Afzal Butt, while welcoming the BJP delegation, said South Asia was a region where even holding cricket matches had become an issue like solving the Kashmir dispute. "We need to recognise hard realities. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, however, is committed to peace and harmony in the region and the same should be reciprocated,” he added.