India Inc seeks bilateral trade

New Delhi: While Indian Commerce Ministry is toying with the idea of raising level of economic ties with Pakistan beyond trade to include two-way investments, India Inc is focusing on promoting bilateral trade as a more realistic goal at this point.

The Commerce ministry-level talks held in Islamabad early this year, had also flagged need to promote mutual investments in the two countries to take the level of economic ties to a higher plane. However, a senior Indian Commerce Ministry official told Mail Today that Indian industrialists are not keen to invest in Pakistan at present. A lot of confidence building measures (CBMs) will have to be undertaken before an environment conducive for investment can be created, he added.

This is also evident in the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) recommendation that economic cooperation between India and Pakistan can be promoted through a focus on healthcare, IT and entertainment.

This comes ahead of Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim’s visit to Mumbai and New Delhi on September 26- 30. An 80-member Pakistani trade and industry delegation is accompanying the Minister and CII is organizing an interaction with Indian business on September 29.

According to a CII statement, India-Pakistan Textile chief executive officers (CEOs) met in February 2011 in Delhi and agreed to raise direct trade as well as set up a joint task force. A huge market exists on both sides for textiles.

Indo- Pakistan committee on healthcare during its meeting in July 2011 focused on various issues and stressed creation of an enabling environment for healthcare exchange. Poor healthcare infrastructure in both countries can be addressed through private sector initiatives and greater collaboration on common major diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

CII also sees popularity of films and tele-dramas from each side in the other as a sound foundation for building closer links in entertainment sector.

Legal trade and bilateral exchanges can create a better atmosphere for the advancement of entertainment industry in both countries. Release of Indian films in Pakistan and exchange of television content and formats, including extremely popular Pakistani plays can help cement relationship between the two countries, CII statement said.

It noted that bilateral trade in goods has multiplied 10-fold between 2000-01 and 2010-11 to touch $2.7 billion. CII has conceded that the trade balance is largely in favour of India and there is a need to increase import of goods from Pakistan. However, a large volume of trade also takes place through informal channels and through third countries due to restrictions on cross- border movement of goods.

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