LAHORE  - India and Pakistan foreign ministries have become a hurdle in enhancing bilateral trade ties between the two beighbouring countries as they are hesitating to resume composite dialogue for improving relations.
This was stated by Federal Minister for Commerce, Textile and Industries Khurram Dastgir Khan while talking to media people on the eve of 2nd India Show here at Expo Centre on Friday.
Khurram Dastgir cut the ribbon and formally inaugurated the 2nd India Show, which is aimed at exploiting potential market and expanding vistas of economic cooperation between both the countries. The minister also visited different stalls set up in Expo Centre by different Indian companies. More than 100 stalls, mostly consisting of cloth and jewellery, were displayed at the show.
Without starting composite dialogue , process of trade normalisation cannot be put forward as a sense of confidence was needed for improved trade between both the countries, the minister added. He said there was a great opportunity to grow if the two countries normalised their relations. He said that visa restrictions were the biggest non-tariff barriers, hoping all barriers would be removed considerably. He said cultural and academia exchanges are very important and sharing experiences of each other’s training institutions is also vital.
“Instead of giving message of love to each other on Valentine’s Day, the foreign ministries of both the countries are not ready to restart the composite dialogue ,” the minister told reporters. However, he noted that trade dialogues may continue without any condition, viewing that trade can be a force which would help find new avenues of prosperity between the two countries.
Earlier, addressing an inaugural session of the 2nd India Show, the minister also stressed the need for liberal visa regime to boost trade . He said trade between Pakistan and India will bring prosperity to the people of both countries. The minister said that Pakistan should have friendly relations with all its neighbouring countries and promote trade with them.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Senior Vice President (SVP) Dr Jyotsna Suri, addressing the session, said vibrant cooperation between Pakistan and India would result in better growth in both the countries.
She said Pakistan had great potential to attract tourists and huge foreign exchange.
Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sohail Lashari called for early establishment of banking network between India and Pakistan, opening up of borders 24/7, infrastructural facilities at borders and containerisation of cargo, allowing all tradable items by land route at Wagah.
The LCCI president said that being important members of the SAARC, Pakistan and India both needed to bring economic and political stability and prosperity in the region. “Trade between India and Pakistan holds the major share in the pie of the Saarc countries.”
He said mutual and diplomatic relations between both the countries should remain unaffected by the political vicissitudes. He said they should also make investment in each other’s countries and there should be congenial environment for investment and joint ventures.
“There should be standardisation procedures followed for trade so that there is some harmonised standard in order to avoid disagreements,” he opined.
Indian Commerce and Industry Joint Secretary Vikramjit Singh Sahney said that that trade relations between Pakistan and India should grow in a harmonised way.
He said both the countries should work hard to boost their economic relations. “Relations between Pakistan and India should remain unaffected by political happenings on both the sides and exchanges of students and technology are also important,” he added.
Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan said that bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is pegged at about $3 billion, with Pakistan exporting less than $1 billion. TCA Raghavan said Pakistan’s exports to India had doubled in the last three years, which augurs well for the future.
Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President Iftikhar Malik and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Secretary Rabia Javeri Agha also spoke.
The Commerce Ministry sources maintained that elimination of bilateral negative list is not on the cards for the time being and Islamabad has conveyed to New Delhi that the sectors concerned, including auto, agriculture and pharmaceutical, opposed to trade normalisation with India , cannot be brought on board until it changes its import policy.
Sources said Pakistani political leadership is expecting that India will reciprocate by reducing SAFTA negative list by 30 percent, but that did not happen owing to which the process of trade liberalisation remained stalled. They said that India refused to reduce non-tariff barriers on the plea that its laws are for all countries and not Pakistan-specific.
They said trade normalisation process could not move forward until the irritants were removed by India .
Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma cancelled visit to Pakistan to attend the India Show organised by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The apparent reason is that Pakistan has not fulfilled its commitments made during Dastgir’s last month’s visit to New Delhi for the implementation of bilateral trade proposals under which the two sides decided on 24/7 trade through the Wagah/Attari border; Pakistani giving non-discriminatory market access to India status; and reducing the sensitive items’ list to 100.
Presently, India is asking Pakistan to fulfil its promise for allowing Indian goods through the land route. At present, most items from India have to be exported along the sea-route via Mumbai and Karachi, which is very expensive.
Some of the controversial issues such as Islamabad’s demand for removal of non-tariff barriers and India’s wish for open clearance of Indian goods at the Wagha border were under discussion when the process was hit by deadlock on Composite Dialogue process.