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CE's visit to India

An icebreaking on political and economic fronts

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 disputes.

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.