Keep the Ball Rolling
Lifestyle Pakistan has given bilateral trade relations between India and Pakistan much-needed boost. But what will keep the momentum going?
Even though barbed wires divide the sub-continent, the overwhelming response Lifestyle Pakistan received in India is proof that both countries still have much in common. Held in New Delhi from April 12 – 15, the ‘Made in Pakistan’ exhibition was a collaborative venture between Lifestyle Pakistan, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and the Indian Commerce Ministry. The exhibition showed off the best of Pakistani fashions, textiles, accessories, home furnishings and numerous other items spread over more than 300 stalls.
The four-day event was held in re- sponse to the ‘Made in India’ exhibition that took place in Lahore earlier this year. According to the Lifestyle Pakistan spokesperson, Sidra Iqbal, around 100 Pakistani firms participated in this event showcasing their products, well-known throughout Pakistan. Top designers of the country such as Deepak Perwani, Maheen Khan, Faiza Samee and others were a huge part of the exhibition.
Along with exposing the potential to increase trade ties, the exhibition also brought with it the rich culture of Pakistan to be displayed in India. The khussa from Multan, bangles from Hyderabad and other local handicrafts received much attention. Pakistani ethnic cuisines as well as local musical performances filled the four days with excitement.
Famous Pakistani textile companies such as Gul Ahmad, Orient Textiles, Bonanza, Al Karam and Junaid Jamshed also participated and were well received creating a very high demand for Pakistani textiles in India.
The Made in Pakistan Lifestyle exhibition has worked wonders towards introducing Pakistani brands in India and has made the people of India develop a fine liking for them. Given the
response the exhibition received, a more frequent occurrence of such events in both countries over the next few years is very likely.
Events like these carry tremendous potential to boost trade relations between the two countries, which in turn can help ease the ever-growing tension. Since the Lifestyle Pakistan exhibition showcased some of the top quality Pakistani products, a very wide consumer portal was created, resulting in the much needed exposure to the Indian Business community.
Realising the trade potential, a business delegation from Pakistan accompanied Lifestyle Pakistan to meet Indian counterparts and develop an international market for their products. Top Pakistani officials attended the exhibition and met with state officials to discuss and strengthen trade ties.
Ever since partition, the two countries have indulged in some form of conflict over various issues. With the increase of such exhibitions, there lies an opportunity to seal the rift. With bilateral trade between both countries standing at just $2.7 billion, this sector is now more than ready to be explored.
Very recently, India made a decision to end the ban on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Pakistan, a very positive and hopeful move said to boost trade ties. While cross border spending will rise only gradually, a goldmine for Pakistan investors is on the horizon.
But the boost did not emerge overnight. The governments on both sides have made a concerted and committed effort to renew ties, following the Mumbai tragedy. Things saw a positive turn when in September last year Pakistani Commerce Minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim visited India, marking the first of its kind visit in nearly 35 years. This move was reciprocated when Indian Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma visited Pakistan. It is therefore safe to say, with some assurance, that relations between both countries are on the mend.
India will soon complete the removal of non-tariff barriers restricting imports from Pakistan in response to which Pakistan will endow India with a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status. This will ensure India receives the best services that Pakistan provides to its trading partners.
Recently India’s External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna stated that a ‘liberalized visa agreement’ was to be signed, allowing flexible travelling for businessmen in both countries. If allowed to grow, trade between India and Pakistan has the potential of reaching up to $10 billion and efforts such as these are speeding up the process.
With the establishment of the dedicated Integrated Check Post (ICP) at the Wagah Attari border, the only trade exchange point, commercial traffic will see a marked improvement. Aimed at increasing trade via land, the ICP is expected to boost trade for years to come. A Mumbai to Karachi sea route is also being considered as a mode of strengthening trade relations.
As things move ahead, the two countries are looking forward to exploring various areas for bilateral trade. Indian Commerce Minister has expressed a desire that a power grid stretching across South Asia be set up for sharing electricity, a shortage from which both countries suffer. Not only will this improve trade between India and Pakistan, it can bring together other countries in the region increasing trade opportunities throughout the region. Strengthening trade will also see a rise in foreign capital, which can bring economic stabilization in both countries.
If bilateral trade keeps increasing on the rate it is promising, the idea of bringing peace to the region can become very real in the long run. Both countries suffer from similar problems and if they can find a common ground to work on they can manage to sit together and address the more serious issues hindering the peace process.
Bilateral trade between both countries has suffered vastly due to strained relations, which often result in India and Pakistan cutting off ties altogether. This not only diminishes the market for Pakistani products in India and vice versa but also gives an alleged boost to the illegal trading of goods via Dubai. Neither country can benefit when goods are exchanged in this manner. Therefore to minimize losses, establishing proper trading channels between the two countries is essential.