NEW DELHI : Traditional foes India and Pakistan said Thursday they hoped to transform trade ties and boost peace prospects at the opening of the largest Pakistani commercial fair ever staged on Indian soil.
“There is no other option but economic partnership between India and Pakistan,” Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at the launch of the four-day exhibition in New Delhi, a sentiment echoed by Pakistani officials.“We have to recognise our true trade potential and leave our children with a legacy that ensures prosperity, harmony and peace,” Sharma said at the fair called ‘Lifestyle Pakistan.’“The two nations have opened up a new chapter with this exhibition.”The show’s opening came just days after Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made the first trip to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years, encouraging ties.
Pakistan has brought more than 650 business people to the Indian capital for the trade show as commercial relations improve between the nuclear-armed neighbours.The two countries have approved a most-favoured-nation accord, reducing taxes that hamper trade. Official two-way trade of around $2.6 billion is heavily tilted in India’s favour but unofficial trade is estimated at up to $10 billion.The show underscored hopes voiced by the two nations that boosting trade can help peace talks, including Kahsmir.“(A) lot of movement has happened in the past year, normalisation is going very fast,” Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood said.He said India and Pakistan expected to formally announce by next month new visa rules to promote business travel between the two nations.“In principle, the visa things are finalised.
But it needs to be formally announced and approved” by the two countries, Mahmood said.The fair showcases products of Pakistan’s top jewellery, textile, furniture and clothes designers.“We have the top brands of Pakistan, the high-end fashion and creative work in this show,” Tariq Puri, chief executive of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, said. “We have never had so many quality people under the same roof.”“This is Pakistan’s contemporary side,” he said, adding increased trade represented an “enormous win-win opportunity” for India and Pakistan.The two countries, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, are due to open a trading post Friday along their heavily militarised border that will sharply boost the number of trucks crossing daily to around 600 from the current 150.
The Pakistani exhibition follows a successful ‘made-in-India’ trade show in Lahore in February.Pakistani fair participants said they looked forward to more trade.“We hope this new trade can overcome a lot of the misunderstanding between the countries and a new era of cooperation will start,” Mian Ahad, one of Pakistan’s leading furniture designers, told AFP.“India is a huge market with 1.2 billion people. There’s vast opportunity,” he added. – Nation