TRADING BLOCK WITH SAARC COUNTRIES
INDO-PAK IMPROVED TRADE RELATIONS WILL HELP DEFUSING POLITICAL TENSION.
Feb 20 - 26, 2012
Apart from the political approach of the leaders both in India and Pakistan to resolve the thorny issues, the fact remains that the business communities of the two countries are of the views that improved business relations can help defusing the political strain between the two countries.
Mian Abrar Ahmed, President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) was quite vocal when Anand Sharma, Minister for Commerce, Industry & Textile of India visited KCCI last week.
While expressing his views regarding normalization of trade with India, Mr. Ahmed was more focused on doing away with the animosity between the two countries.
The development of infrastructure plays a vital role in promoting trade all around the world hence there is a need to develop air and sea links between Mumbai and Karachi - the two sister port cities - and functionalize the Bombay-Karachi Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Besides removing the trust deficit between the neighboring countries, the KCCI Chief also emphasized on building trading blocks with SAARC countries, Central Asian Republics, particularly with India and China.
He paid tributes to the Indo-Pak Business Communities who played a vital role to lower down the political tensions, melted the ice, and supported their respective governments for "Confidence Building Measures".
The business communities on both sides of the border continuously endeavor to improve relations while increasing trade and economic cooperation between two countries.
President KCCI recalled a significant point of business relations between India and Pakistan soon after independence when the two newly born states besides establishing diplomatic relations had started bilateral trade.
In the light of General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT), which now has been replaced by WTO, both countries have to accord MFN status to each other. Both countries enjoyed MFN status before year 1965 and trade was in favor of Pakistan.
At Karachi Chamber, the business community believes that South Asia is now standing at the threshold of peace and prosperity because India and Pakistan have taken serious practical measures and shown greater political determination to develop shared economic relations to foster the process of regional economic cooperation.
In the wake of changed global economic scenario, the leading players of South Asia - India and Pakistan - have also changed their mindsets not to forgo the economic benefits in the larger interest of poor masses in the region.
"The grant of MFN status to India need to be realized as economic obligation instead of political framework and India should come forward with open mind and to promote bilateral investment to further deepen the economic relations," he said. He also expressed profound gratitude to the government of India to support Pakistan in the EU to accomplish GSP Plus.
Chairman Businessmen Group Siraj Kassam Teli welcomed the statement of the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh for his vision to transform South Asia with the cooperation of all the neighboring countries including Pakistan, to alleviate poverty and bring prosperity in the region.
Indo-Pak Business Community has a common resolve that is to "expand bilateral trade between the two Nations as well as the region".
"The business communities on both sides firmly believe that improving economic ties may help to resolve the larger political issues that obstruct friendly and cordial relations," he said.
Successive Indian and Pakistani governments have often negotiated for peaceful relations but reaching a comprehensive agreement to settle disputes somehow, eluded us.
Siraj urged upon the governments to make a commitment to the business and industrial communities of both the countries that whatever has been achieved will not be undone in the event of disruption of the ongoing dialogues and the communication channels will be left open and businesses will not be allowed to suffer.
The time has come to redefine the priorities as economics is name of the game nowadays, which takes precedence to politics.
"We at Karachi Chamber believe that the government of both the countries after a span of 64 years are moving in the right direction by taking the business communities of both the countries along, which will help ultimately to enter a new phase of full normalization of bilateral trade relations, which would also build bridges of friendship and trust for mutual benefits, ultimately resolve other issues."
Business community feels that Pakistan should reciprocate the most favored nation (MFN) status to India without further delay as this was our point of view eight years back when he led the first delegation to India in 2004, he said.
Chairman Sindh Board of Investment and former President KCCI Muhammad Zubair Motiwala proposed five points to act as cornerstone for development of bilateral trade if implemented. The points proposed emphasized that traveling between India and Pakistan should be made easy and the business communities be allowed multiple visas for multiple cities.
The Indo Pak trade may be done in rupees (Indian and Pak Rupees) rather than dollars. Powers to issue visa stickers on the pattern of Saarc to the Managing Committee and Corporate Class of Bombay Chamber and Karachi Chamber should be allowed. There should be removal of Non-Tariff Barriers and introduce Mediation Committees in Bombay and Karachi Chambers to address the grievances of importers and exporters.
Sea-link should be started initially and small vessels be allowed to operate between the ports of Karachi and Indian ports of Mumbai, Porbunder, Mundra etc. Besides exchange of arts and culture, there must be frequent exchanges of businesspersons from two sides.
Resumption of normal trade between India and Pakistan means lot of business activities from micro to macro levels in both sides with trickle down effects flowing to the grass root levels. For example, currently there is a movement of some 100-150 trucks from Wagah to Attari borders. Resumption of trade to the full volume would allow at least 600 trucks to generate earnings even at the porter level. It is interesting to note that soon after the news of resumption of normal border trade the value of land at both sides of the border has suddenly gone up, as the investors are keen to develop warehouses alongside the borderline. This indicates that normalization of bilateral trade would at least create some earning opportunities to the poverty-hit people of the countries.