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Pak-India trade suffers for inaction

LAHORE, Nov 6: Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal urged Pakistani and Indian governments to resolve all issues pertaining to a two-way trade, terming it as the only way to break barriers between the two countries.

Trade between Pakistan and India could go up to $10 billion from the current $2 billion within the shortest possible time provided both the sides take sector-specific measures, said Badal at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Tuesday.

“The distance between Lahore and Amritsar is only of 35 minutes duration while the goods coming through a third country cost 10 times more than that through direct trade,” said Badal.

“India is one of the biggest economies in the region and offers innumerable opportunities to Pakistani businessmen and they must not feel any threat from their Indian entrepreneurship. Rather they should workout strategy to be competitive. Indian Punjab has a big consumer market that should be captured by the Pakistani businessmen,” he added.

The banking system between the two sides should be upgraded while student exchange programme needs to be activated in the larger benefit of the people of the two sides, he said.

With surplus electricity by 2013, Indian Punjab would be more than willing to export it to Pakistan. A major portion of electricity was being produced in Indian Punjab through coal while more than 500 MW from renewable sources like biomass, wheat-straw and rice-straw.

Another 500 megawatts of solar electricity would be added to the national grid during the next five years, said the deputy chief minister of Indian Punjab and added that electricity for agriculture has been free in his province while the industry enjoyed a lot of incentives.

Earlier, LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said that non-tariff barriers being faced by Pakistani exporters were creating enormous problems.

At present, almost equal quantum of trade was going on between Pakistan and India from third destinations like Dubai and Colombo etc.

“It increases the cost for nothing in the form of freight, taxes and loss of time,” said Iftikhar and called for a win-win start for the greater benefit.

“There are many possibilities which can lead our economies to supplement each other for growth. We need to identify areas of economic cooperation. Joint ventures, out-sourcing and sharing of technology will further pave the way for trade expansion,” said the LCCI president referring to the two-way trade between India and Pakistan.