An icebreaking on political and economic fronts
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
June 04 - 10, 2001
The visit of Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf,
to India, is certainly an icebreaking development, which has kindled
the hopes for easing the tense relations between the two countries.
Apart from a positive effect on the political
fronts, the business community in both the countries are attaching
great importance to the visit which they feel may help improving trade
relations between the two countries.
Expressing his views about the forthcoming visit,
Zubair Motiwala, President, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI)
has said that though the agenda of the visit has been not declared so
far, yet talks on economic cooperation must be an important part of
the overall discussions between the leaders of Pakistan and India. He
expressed the hope that the visit would certainly bring some positive
impact on the trade activities between India and Pakistan.
The KCCI chief feels that there are good reasons
for India and Pakistan to benefit each other with the existing
opportunities in the larger economic interest of the two nations.
He set aside the apprehensions expressed by some of
the businessmen that Pakistan's industry may not be able to compete
the onslaught of Indian goods if the status of "Most Favored
Nation" (MFN) was accorded to India. Zubair was of the view that
Pakistani products are already competing not only with Indian products
but also with the products of the developed world in the international
market. No doubt India has an edge over Pakistani products in some of
the areas but on the same time Pakistan too has an edge over on Indian
products as well. Today, even the developed economies are looking for
large markets like Indian market to enhance their exports. He
expressed the hope that normalization of trade ties would hopefully
reduce import bill of certain important items like textile machinery
and promote exports of finished textile products from Pakistan. In
fact official restrictions are able to stall the way of the products
already flooded the markets of the two countries. The restrictions are
paving the way for illegal trade that goes in favour of the smuggling
depriving the exchequer of huge revenues. Citing the example of
textile machinery, he said that Pakistan has to buy costly machines
plus bearing extra transportation charges by importing it from
distantly located countries. Replying to a question, he said that the
two countries are already in trade but the transactions are taking
place in third country due to restrictions on the direct trade.
Zubair said that there were talks for construction
of gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, as well as export of
electricity to India. However before accomplishing these big projects,
steps on smaller scale projects are necessary to remove mistrust and
bring stability in relations of the two nations.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf
has accepted the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee to visit India hoping that sincere and candid discussions
would be held to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
In reply to the Indian Prime Minister's letter, the
C.E stated that Pakistan always been keen to have tension-free and
cooperative relations between the two countries for concentrating
their energies on social and economic development.
In his letter, delivered by Pakistan High
Commissioner in New Delhi to the Indian foreign secretary on Tuesday
last, the C.E suggested that the two countries would do their utmost
to overcome the legacy of distrust and hostility to ensure brighter
future for our peoples. The Chief Executive also expressed Pakistan's
readiness to discuss all other outstanding issues.
Meanwhile, the developed world including the United
States and the European Union have welcomed the opening of the
dialogue between India and Pakistan.
Welcoming the move, the European Union has said
that the proposed resumption of talks at the highest level between
Pakistan and India with the new contact would help resolve their old
The ambassadors of EU countries it may be noted
were briefed by the Foreign office on the invitation extended to the
Chief Executive by the Indian prime minister. The EU diplomats see it
a positive development which may have peace and stability in the
region, said Kurt Juul, head of the EU delegation in Pakistan.
He has rightly said that it was not EU to ask India
or Pakistan to cut their defence budgets and divert their resources to
social sections. He cited the example of fragmented Europe, which now
turned into a united Europe after 51 years of struggle and showing
political wisdom to resolve its political and economic differences.
And now it was the time for both Pakistan and India to show political
wisdom and sagacity to come to terms so that their people could be
offered education, health cover and other needs of life. Diverting
resources from defence to social sectors could certainly provide
certain relief to the common man both in India and Pakistan. Without
allocating substantial resources for education it would be difficult
for both the countries to compete with the developed world.