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?

Southasia - - Cover Story - By Sidra Rizvi

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.

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