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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressing during the inaugural session of two-day second “Aman Ki Asha Economic Conference”. – APP photo by Rana Imran

LAHORE: Pakistan is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with India through dialogue, besides developing relations on the basis of equality, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said here on Monday.

“We want all our core issues settled through dialogue on an equitable basis and to start a new era of economic collaboration with India,” he said while addressing the inaugural session of the second “Aman ki Asha Economic Conference”.

The prime minister said Pakistan wanted to enhance people-to-people contacts to promote peace and prosperity.

He said the high-profile gathering of industrialists, entrepreneurs and business professionals of both countries showed the commitment of the private sector to develop bilateral economic relations.

(According to media reports, the Indian delegation, led by Adi Godrej, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and chairman of the Godrej Group, includes CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee, Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto, Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Corporate Services, Rakesh Bharti Mittal of Bharti Enterprises, Hari Bhartia of Jubilant Life Sciences, Dr Naresh Trehan of Medanta, the Medicity, and several other leading business executives of the country.)

The prime minister said poverty, disease, and ignorance should not be the fate of the people of the two countries anymore.

The presence of leading businessmen underlines the importance the community attaches to peace and normalisation of relations between two countries for a peaceful and prosperous future.

He said the delegates attending the conference were the best ambassadors of peace for both countries and each one of them had an important role to play in furthering the relationship and building the foundations of durable peace.

“The world is marching on and it is time for us to shed the baggage of the past, grab the opportunity at hand and act with an urgency to build a relationship of mutual trust. We have lost precious time and should not allow its wastage anymore.”

The prime minister said: “I feel optimistic when I see that over the past 12 months the two countries have moved fast not just to normalise relations but to remove irritants which hamper trade and economic relations.”

The two countries announced in April last year their intention to normalise trade relations and by April this year they had made huge strides in this direction, he said.

He said it had been agreed that the list of permitted imports from India would be replaced with a negative list.

“We recently witnessed the opening up of Wagah-Attari Trade Gate which will go a long way in boosting the volume of trade between the two countries.”

He said President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent visit to India and his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as a series of his own meetings with his Indian counterpart had been aimed at pushing the peace process forward and ensuring that it gathered an unstoppable momentum.

“As the democratic government enters the fifth year of its term, improved relations with India is one of our cherished goals towards which we continue to make considerable progress,” he said.

Praising India’s decision to allow investment from Pakistan, the prime minister said now Pakistan was awaiting some practical steps for the removal of non-tariff barriers which hampered its exports to the Indian market.

“We face many challenges and threats from forces inimical to peace as we are passing through turbulent times in our history in which non-state actors are determined to harm the peace process.”

The prime minister said such non-state forces were present on both sides of the border and both the countries needed to remain vigilant so that they could not derail the hard-earned gains.

Prime Minister Gilani said his government had worked hard to revive the country’s economy affected by the global financial crisis as well as natural disasters.

“We have pushed the reform agenda and stayed committed to the policies of economic liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation, besides encouraging the private sector to play a greater role in the economy.”

“We are aware of the fact that without enhancing regional trade the country cannot realise its full potential, therefore, improved relations with India are important for us as it offers a billion-plus market to Pakistani exporters.”

The prime minister said there were several sectors with huge trade potential and opportunities for collaboration, including information technology, engineering, education and health.

He said a liberal trade regime ensured flow of cheaper imports for both countries due to their geographical proximity and resultant lower freight costs.

The prime minister said Pakistani textiles had a huge market across the border and India could get buyers for its chemicals, pharmaceutical items and engineering goods.He said peace and an enabling environment were needed for economic growth and social well-being of people depended on normalisation of relations between both countries on a sustainable basis.

The prime minister said China was also in favour of normalisation of relations with India.--APP

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