New Delhi: Return of Nawaz Sharif at the helm of affairs in Islamabad will help its economic integration with India which will also aid the Pakistani economy revive faster, industry chamber ASSOCHAM said today.
The ASSOCHAM which has taken several initiatives in the past to foster economic cooperation between the two neighbouring countries, said the focus on economic engagement should increase to improve bilateral relations which have been marred by political reasons.
“Return of Nawaz Sharif who wants to kick-start revival of Pakistani economy should be used as a fresh opportunity to cement the business and trade ties with India”, said Mr. D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM.
He said like in the past, the ASSOCHAM will take new initiatives to engage actively with trade and industry associations of Pakistan.
The chamber will also plan to field a delegation of Indian business leaders to Pakistan so that the goodwill can also be generated among “our counterparts across the border”.
He said a lot of investment and political willpower is required to improve trade facilitation at both sides of the border at Wagah . The number of items of trade should also be increased at the Wagah border. The two countries also need to participate in mutual exhibitions and trade shows besides the informal trade on the line of control in Kashmir should also be given a boost.
The bilateral trade was only USD 2.34 billion in the financial year 2012-13 while the third country trade through other ports like Dubai was much more. Like in the case of China, trade should be increased several times so that the people-to-people commercial stakes are raised. This in turn will help improve the political ties as well and aid in resolving some of the contentious issues.
“We must increase the official trade and set a target of at doubling the bilateral trade in the current financial year. While we urge Pakistan to grant us the MFN status, New Delhi should ensure that the trade balance which is largely skewed in favour of India should be corrected,” the chamber said.
According to the ASSOCHAM recent report on ‘The Potential of Indo-Pak Economic Engagement: A study with focus on post-MFN scenario’ reveals that bilateral trade between India and Pakistan might clock over $12 billion by 2015 if Pakistan accords India with the coveted most favoured nation (MFN) status.
Exports of commodities like sugar and sugar confectionary, cotton, coffee, spices, tea, petroleum products, iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, fertilizers, paints, automobiles, heavy industrial goods and others to Pakistan and imports of fruits and vegetables, mineral fuels, organic and inorganic chemicals, woolen products from Pakistan together with mutual trade promotion initiatives between the two neighbours can help boost the bilateral trade by almost five times from $2.34 billion realized in 2012-13 and the two neighbours can help each other and enhance trade, said The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
Against India’s merchandise exports of USD 1.833 billion to Pakistan, imports from that country were only USD 513 million, less than one-third. “Whatever genuine concerns are there from Pakistani businessmen should be taken on board. Correction of the trade imbalance will also help the Federal Government in Pakistan to give us MFN, which is more of a symbolic stance” the chamber said.
The enhanced trade cooperation can help Pakistan in some of its strong industries which, however, are battling the global slowdown like several other countries. Although India and Pakistan compete in the international market in the cotton textiles and apparel, the two nations can still cooperate in terms of certain value-additions.