Calling for removing non-tariff trade barriers between India and Pakistan, the Indian envoy said on Friday both the countries need to shun violence and normalise relations in order to take the two-way trade to $30 billion from the present $5 billion.
Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria, addressing the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), also said that there is no better way of improving bilateral relations than mutually beneficial economic ties.
India has been pushing Pakistan for normalisation of trade on the basis of the September 2012 roadmap that mentioned removal of all restrictions on trade through the Wagah border and grant of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by December 2012. Pakistan, however, did not adhere to the timeline. India has already given Pakistan the MFN status - which is nothing but a promise not to discriminate against imports from the country that has got the status.
Bisaria said mutual relations between the two countries should be built on the basis of trade and economy, and violence and war should not be an option.
Bisaria's statement came at a time when relations between the two nuclear-power neighbours are at a low amid heightened tensions following claims and counter-claims by both the countries about harassment of each other's diplomats.
The Indian High Commissioner also said that India and Pakistan should have the future different from the past and must not carry the burden of history.
"Both Pakistan and India need to take more steps to remove non-tariff barriers that are a major impediment to bilateral trade relations," Bisaria said.
"We should not talk about negative and positive lists rather we should work on the windows of opportunities. At present, over $5 billion trade is being done through third country but after removal of non-tariff barriers, liberalisation of visa and normalisation of mutual relations, the two-way trade could touch a high $30 billion," he said.
Stressing that both India and Pakistan could cater to each other if they utilise youths, Bisaria said that two-third population of India is below the age of 35 and same is the case in Pakistan where 65 per cent population is under the age of 35.
"Chambers of the commerce and industry of both the countries are important lobby as not only they can play an instrumental role in strengthening mutual trade and economic ties but also influence the policy makers," he said.
LCCI President Malik Tahir Javaid said at present an unfavourable scenario has developed both at political and diplomatic fronts.
"We have been witnessing time and again that first there is a trust deficit, then some joint efforts are made for trust building, then some incident happens and we end up yet again at trust deficit. One such (terror) incident must not halt the process of relation building. Both countries should give the peace another chance to prevail in the region for our youth and coming generations," he said.
Pakistan and India need to show a lot of maturity and act very sensibly, he added.
India Pakistan Trade
Pakistan was the largest buyer of Indian cotton in the 2015-16 season (October-September). It bought 2.5 millon bales (one bale is 170 kg); India's total cotton exports were 6.5 million bales.
While Pakistan imported cotton, India imported cement due to shortage of fly ash supplied by thermal power units. Cement imports do not attract basic Customs duty. Indian cement makers have been pushing for additional duties on imported cement.
Trade, it seems, is the only aspect of Indo-Pak relations that has not been hit by the deteriorating ties between the two countries. It rose 6.1 per cent to $409.96 million in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. In 2015-16, both countries had traded goods worth $5.31 billion, down from $6.71 billion in 2014-15.
India has also seen a surge in demand for its sugar. In 2015-16, Indian mills had exported sugar worth $46.46 million to Pakistan.
India has been traditionally supplying meat, chemicals, artefacts, medicines and agriculture products to Pakistan. Since last year, there has been a surge in demand for Indian cotton, dairy products and sugar, too. India buys nuts, fruit, cement, leather products, some chemicals and rare earth materials from Pakistan.
India and Pakistan trade from two routes - the Mumbai-Karachi sea route and the Wagah land route. There are two other points - Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch and Salamabad in Uri - but they are used only for trade between Jammu & Kashmir and POK.
with PTI inputs