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India, Pak biz leaders draft 4-point plan to boost trade
Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | September 15, 2003 19:17 IST
In a bid to boost trade between India and Pakistan, leaders of the industry from both sides on Monday announced a roadmap to improve business ties in at least four areas and promote bilateral trade.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, business leaders of the newly formed India-Pakistan CEOs' Business Forum said they would try to facilitate business activities and create a cordial atmosphere.
Amin Hashwani, co-chairman of the forum and managing director of Pakistan's Hashwani Group of Companies, said: "We have identified four key areas where we can learn and gain from each other."
These areas are trade and investment; manufacturing; healthcare and education; and entertainment and communication and image building.
The forum was launched Sunday by Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha in the presence of Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Aziz Ahmed Khan.
A similar delegation of about 150 Pakistani businessmen had come to India in July.
This 12-member delegation had been invited by Confederation of Indian Industry.
Speaking to reporters, Hari S Bhatnagar, also the co-chairman of the forum, explained about the possibility of cooperation between India and Pakistan in manufacturing industry.
He said the two countries have a huge textile industry and are great producers of cotton. India is the one of the largest producer of sugarcane and sugar, while Pakistan requires expertise in this filed.
Pakistan, he said, is also looking forward to export industrial alcohol in a big way.
"These are areas where we can share technology and expertise," said Bhatnagar.
Other areas, he said, were automobile, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. India has a great potential of producing low-cost medicines.
Suketu V Shah of the Young Presidents' Organisation, a global body of young business leaders, said service sectors like health, education and entertainment are potential sectors of trade between India and Pakistan.
Citing the example of Pakistani girl Noor Fatima who underwent a successful cardiac operation here, he said there should be sharing of knowledge as well.
He said Indian movies should be promoted in Pakistan as it has a great market there. But the leaders did not discuss the screening of Indian movies in Pakistani cinema halls.
The business leaders also spoke of promoting trade and skills in tourism and IT, and to build up better image in the eyes of the people.
They, however, said the governments on both sides should initiate the dialogue to facilitate trade for the benefit of ordinary people. They complained of lack of travel and transport between the two countries.
There is no rail and air link between the two since December 2001 when some Pakistan-backed militants attacked the Indian Parliament. The biweekly bus service resumed in July.
The next meeting of the forum will take place in Pakistan. The date has not been fixed.
India and Pakistan have an official annual trade of around $200 million, but exports through third countries total nearly $1 billion. Experts say trade could rise to nearly $4 billion if they started trading with each other directly.
Anand G Mahindra of the Mahindra and Mahindra group said: "Let us not build high expectations. We don't want any hype. This is just a baby step."
"We want to climb Mt. Everest and currently we are at the base camp."