News / Asia

Large Indian Trade Delegation Visits Pakistan

Anjana Pasricha

Trade representatives from India have concluded four days of meetings with business leaders in Pakistan aimed at deepening economic engagement between the rival South Asian nations.  

India's 120-member delegation, led by trade Minister Anand Sharma, included some of the nation's top business leaders.  Among them were  Rajan Mittal, the head of India's leading telecom company, Bharti; and Naresh Goyal, the head of the nation's largest airline, Jet Airways.  

The high-profile delegation met Pakistani business leaders and authorities in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Trade Minister Sharma underlined the need for the two countries to dismantle existing barriers to trade.    

“The road map that we have defined for ourselves should bring in a liberal trade regime," said Sharma.

The two sides signed three accords in such areas as customs cooperation and grievance redress. They agreed to make it easier to secure business visas. And they agreed to open a gate at a border crossing in April to facilitate the movement of trucks.

Pakistan has also promised to increase the number of goods that can be traded and to leave only a small number of goods on a list of items that cannot be traded.

Business leaders believe this could help the two countries achieve their goal of increasing trade from the current level of $2.3 billion to $6 billion in three years.

The effort to normalize trade ties began last November, when Islamabad promised to open its markets to most Indian goods.   

The move has been widely praised. Indian Trade Minister Sharma said that growing trade relations will strengthen forces that believe in peace.

Many believe that strengthening trade will foster better ties between the South Asian rivals and make it easier to work out their political differences.

Dipankar Banerjee is at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi:       

“It reflects a very true and genuine interest on the part of India and also the business community on both sides to normalize trade ties," said Banerjee.

However it could take time to significantly step up economic engagement between the rivals due to old animosities.  

There is some disappointment in New Delhi that Pakistan has not yet formally implemented the Most Favored Nation status it granted to India.

Analysts attribute the delay to lingering suspicions in Pakistan over normalizing trade with India.

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