LAHORE - Vikramgit Singh Sahney, President SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an apex body of chambers in the region, on Tuesday said that constrained bilateral relations were behind low trade between Pakistan and India. 

He expressed these views while discussing the present state of affairs by telephone with Vice President SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Pak chapter and veteran trade leader Iftikhar Ali Malik.  He said: “We have abundant resources, both human and natural, possess enriched and fertile land tracts but people  of either countries suffered due to failure to fully utilize indigenous resources optimally.”

Vikramgit said that it was in the vital interest of people of the subcontinent and their governments to fully ensure lasting peace in the region through promotion of trade besides addressing their core issues.  He said there was a vast scope of close cooperation between the two countries in the fields of agriculture, health, education, engineering, transfer of technological expertise, use of cheaper raw material to help boost industrial competitiveness with a special focus on alleviating poverty in the region.

He said that currently official trade was about $2 billion per year which could be increased by 5 to 10 times directly through the bilaterally legalised procedure instead of a third country.  About barriers, he said that there were constraints of economic integration with included high tariff rates and non-tariff barriers, and inadequate infrastructure for trade. 

He said that constraints on visa and cumbersome procedures of payments and customs clearance further limited the scope of trade. Iftikhar Ali Malik suggested that both the countries should take initiatives to improve relations and promote bilateral trade. 

For a level playing field and a win-win situation, a bilateral investment treaty should be finalised to fully facilitate a two-way flow of foreign direct investment between the two countries, he added.  He emphasised that the media should also play a positive role in restoring mutual trust and confidence at the grassroots level which was a key to mutual growth and economic prosperity for the overall betterment of people of the region.

Iftikhar Ali Malik said: “We are also working on the same lines, which is the manifesto of SAARC CCI and an all-out effort is being made to boost economic ties among all SAARC member countries, especially between India and Pakistan.”