LAHORE: India never halted trade relations with Pakistan and wants to move towards normalising business ties, an Indian diplomat said on Friday, stressing that today’s diplomacy focuses on tourism, trade and technology because “money speaks its own language”.

“India always wants bet­­ter relations with Pak­istan because we cannot change our geography,” Suresh Kumar, India’s deputy high commissioner to Pakistan, said while speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

“We want to move to­­w­ards normal relations with Pakistan. We also didn’t stop trade with Pakistan, as it was Pakistan that did it,” he claimed. “It would be better to see how we can change our problems and situations.”

He agreed that the number of visas issued by the Indian embassy to Pak­istanis dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic. How­ever, he insisted that the number had now increa­sed, as 30,000 visas were being issued every year, which he said was “a huge number”.

Mr Kumar said the Indian government was also issuing medical and sports visas to Pakistanis.

He said gone were the days when diplomacy used to focus on compiling political reports. Today’s di­plo­macy, he said, revol­ved around tourism, trade and technology “as money speaks its own language”.

India was presently doing trade of $120 billion with China, in which the balance of trade is towards China, he said, stressing that imports “are not always wrong and also have advantages”.

Mr Kumar said the intellectual property had become more important than physical property. “By sitting in distant countries and manufacturing in other countries, Europe is making money due to intellectual property rig­hts,” he said. “Universities in Europe focus on technology.”

He said transit trade was extr­emely important as Cen­­tral Asia was a big market and India needed ac­­cess to it. Similarly, Central Asia also needed access to India.

He said India was on course to become one of the largest economies. “Our service sector has grown enormously and now we are focusing on manufacturing, like automobile and electronics manufacturing,” he said.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar said it was generally thought that improving economic relations bet­ween India and Pakistan was a complex issue that required addressing a range of political, economic and social factors.

“But we are of the view that the foremost step that could be taken to improve economic relations betw­een India and Pakistan is to normalise trade relations. This would bring substantial economic benefits evenly to both the countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2023

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