Resolve disputes to reap economic benefits: Pakistan envoyJune 2nd, 2008 - 11:11 pm ICT by IANS
Mumbai, June 02 (IANS) Pakistan’s envoy to India Shahid Malik has said that the relations between the two countries are the best ever and resolution of political issues would lead to economic benefits to both sides. Malik was addressing an interactive meeting of businessmen organized by the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) here Saturday. The salient points of the meeting were released by IMC Monday.
Malik said that bilateral trade between the two countries rose to $1.6 billion in 2005 from the low of $227 million in 2002, notching an impressive growth - and the trend continues.
However, he said that such a steep growth on a short term is understandable but not sustainable on a long-term basis since the two-way trade is heavily tilted in India’s favour.
“If India can help correct this growing imbalance by increasing imports from Pakistan, it will go a long way. For instance, Pakistan produces 10 million tonnes surplus cement, while India faces a sizeable cement shortage. There is no reason why India cannot import more cement from Pakistan,” Malik said.
He agreed that sustained development in trade relations on a long-term basis could be ensured only if some outstanding political disputes like Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen Glacier and others were resolved quickly. Malik stressed that unless early steps were taken to resolve these political issues, the economic relationship might become a casualty.
IMC president N.N. Chaini said that at current level of total annual bilateral trade at $1670 million, it was a mere 0.7 percent of the total international trade of India. “There is vast scope for improving the trade to a significant level, especially in the context of implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA),” Chaini said.
He pointed out that the if the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline was implemented expeditiously, it would yield an annual revenue between $600-800 million to Pakistan by way of transit fees, besides meeting that country’s energy needs.
“Even trade between South Asian countries would grow substantially, if they just open borders to each other on the basis of Most Favoured Nation status,” Chaini observed.