Lahore – The Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh said on Friday that Indian Prime Minister has prioritized improving trade relations with SAARC States and taking all possible steps in this regard. 

Addressing a meeting at LCCI, he said that as a part of PM vision to facilitate the trade process, Indian visa regime has been liberalized and his office is assuring all possible help to Pakistani community. In this respect, he also mentioned about the fast track visa processing system being offered by Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

He said that he present figures of bilateral trade reflect their affects. He said that in 2014, the volume of bilateral trade was around dollar 2.5 billion which contracted to a little below than dollar 2 billion in 2015. He said it should be a matter of concern for us that there is decreasing trend in imports and exports between Pakistan and India. 

He said that in last two years, the imports from India to Pakistan came down from dollar 2105 million to dollar 1669 million. Similarly, Pakistan exports to India fell from dollar 392 million to dollar 312 million in this period.

We together may put some pressure on our governments to at least draw a clear line between political and economic issues. It is high time that trade between both the countries should be given a fair chance to contribute towards peace and prosperity in the region, he added. 

In his address, LCCI Senior Vice President Almas Hyder, said that Pakistan and India are major partners of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and have great responsibility to maintain peace in the region He said that there are many issues prevailing between the two countries but we believe that people to people contacts can play an effective role in dispelling wrong perceptions about each other. He said that these issues sometimes hinder the trade and commercial relations.

He emphasized on separating trade with politics and to encourage more people-to-people contact to improve the deteriorating trade volume between two countries. He said that Pakistani businessmen are keen to strengthen business relations with Indian counterparts, and for that reason; they should be facilitated by Indian High Commission in Pakistan in terms of provision of timely visas on relaxed terms and conditions. Further in the meeting, few members in the house complained about the issues they are facing in terms of getting Indian visa. In this respect, it was proposed in the house that Indian High Commission in Pakistan should relaxed the visa regime and should liberalized the visa process by granting 2 to 3 years multiple entry visas to bonafide Pakistani businessmen. It was added that the visa processing time of 45 day should be reduced to facilitate the business community. Further it was proposed that LCCI office bearers and Executive Committee members should be granted multiple entry visas as all the members who are elected on the board of LCCI comprises reputed businessmen of Lahore.

The LCCI Vice President Nasir Saeed said that private sectors of the two countries need to put in more efforts to further enhance bilateral trade and for that matter we need to innovate the existing ways of making business deals. He said that unless we pave the way for commercial importers and exporters, the businessmen from both sides with continue to opt trading via Dubai & Singapore etc. This only adds to cost and time factors. He said that chambers of commerce from Pakistani and Indian sides have to play a sensible role to facilitate their members with regard to developing networking amongst each other.

“It is needless to mention that our respective high commissions have to cooperate with representatives of business communities. They should be given preference with regard to visa processing, he added. 

He said that India being a bigger and more competitive economy in comparison to Pakistan will definitely gain on account of enhanced trade but this scenario does not threaten to make one country an absolute winner or loser. We should think beyond negative or positive lists of tradable items. There are numbers of models which may be followed to address the concerns of business community.