Suc­cess­fully pro­mot­ing peace and en­gage­ment, Aman Ki Asha is now ready to bro­ker trade and eco­nomic ad­vance­ments.

Southasia - - Cover Story - By Ayla Joseph Ayla Joseph is a free­lance jour­nal­ist based in New York, USA.

The Sec­ond Indo-Pak eco­nomic fo­rum ti­tled “Div­i­dends” was re­cently held un­der the aus­pices of Aman Ki Asha, a joint ini­tia­tive un­der­taken by the Jang Group Pak­istan and Times of In­dia. The fo­rum kicked off with much vigor and en­thu­si­asm from both sides, de­ter­mined to ex­plore in­no­va­tive op­tions to en­hance trade and ex­plore mu­tu­ally prof­itable busi­ness op­tions. The meet­ing came at a time when much is be­ing made of the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, which has seen more set­backs than suc­cesses. In the back­drop of di­a­logue and cul­tural fests there was also the dark shadow of the Si­achen tragedy and the con­se­quent dead­lock be­tween the two na­tions. An eco­nomic fo­rum de­signed to bring to­gether leading busi­ness­men and ex­perts from trade and in­vest­ment rep­re­sent­ing both the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tors, was per­haps a wise choice, in such times.

The two-day fo­rum in­cluded six ex­haus­tive dis­cus­sions ex­plor­ing ways to re­move bar­ri­ers to trade and ex­plore new av­enues where busi­ness lead­ers can co­op­er­ate, apart from eas­ing visa re­stric­tions on both sides. Sharat Sab­har­wal, the In­dian High Com­mis­sioner to Pak­istan, ex­pressed hope that an agree­ment for lib­er­al­iz­ing the busi­ness visa regime be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan will be signed dur­ing an up­com­ing meet­ing of se­nior of­fi­cials of the two coun­tries.

While ad­dress­ing the in­au­gu­ral ses­sion, Prime Min­is­ter Gi­lani said that Pak­istan was com­mit­ted to re­solv­ing all out­stand­ing is­sues through di­a­logue and wanted to cre­ate an eco­nom­i­cally rich bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, which could pro­duce peace and pros­per­ity for peo­ple on both sides of the border. He ex­pressed con­fi­dence with Pak­istan’s de­ci­sion to re­vise the neg­a­tive trad­ing list with In­dia, claim­ing that this move would prove in­stru­men­tal in en­hanc­ing un­der­stand­ing and open­ing up op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Aman Ki Asha is de­signed to usher in a new era of peace and mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion. Shahrukh Hasan of the Jang Group claimed that given the re­cent turn in the econ­omy, the world was turn­ing to Asia and the South Asia re­gion was poised per­fectly for such an event. Marked with tremen­dous po­ten­tial and an un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity, the re­gion lies at the cen­ter and can reap max­i­mum prof­its, if de­sired.

Ex­ec­u­tive Pres­i­dent of the Times of In­dia Group, Rahul Kansal, lauded the ef­forts un­der­taken by the ini­tia­tive and called upon the me­dia to pro­mote the agenda of peace within the civil so­ci­ety. While cul­tural ex­change was tak­ing place through mu­sic, food and fash­ion fes­ti­vals, com­merce on the other hand re­mained sta­tion­ary. The re­cent grant­ing of the MFN sta­tus by the Gi­lani gov­ern­ment, the con­se­quent trade agree­ments signed, the move to­wards eas­ing visa re­stric­tions and es­tab­lish­ing plat­forms such as Aman Ki Asha, can serve as a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment and trig­gers fur­ther en­gage­ment.

High Com­mis­sion­ers from In­dia and Pak­istan were present through­out to an­swer ques­tions and present a de­tailed frame­work of the work con­ducted by both sides. For­eign Min­is­ter Hina Rab­bani Khar also ex­pressed her de­sire to see peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tact, which she deemed the fore­most way to cre­ate bet­ter un­der­stand­ing.

While the ef­forts of Aman Ki Asha are com­mend­able it was dis­heart­en­ing to see this par­tic­u­lar fo­rum suc­cumb to Pak­istan’s heated po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere. The in­clu­sion of PTI chair­man, Im­ran Khan was largely un­nec­es­sary as he used the plat­form to present his party’s man­i­festo on an en­gaged part­ner­ship with In­dia. The beauty of Aman Ki Asha lay in its neu­tral stance and its ef­forts as a non­par­ti­san pri­vate ini­tia­tive. Chief Min­is­ter Pun­jab, Shah­baz Sharif also spoke on the oc­ca­sion, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the ef­fort and ex­press­ing his con­vic­tion that a new era in eco­nomic col­lab­o­ra­tion was in place.

Hav­ing fea­tured a politi­cian like Im­ran Khan, whose pres­ence largely over­shad­owed the con­fer­ence it­self, one won­ders how much a non­par­ti­san im­age will now fea­ture in ini­tia­tives un­der­taken by Aman Ki Asha. What­ever the case, it is cer­tain though that pri­vate sec­tor ini­tia­tives such as this achieve much more than gov­ern­ment ef­forts and will cer­tainly help to usher in a new era of peace, un­der­stand­ing, co­op­er­a­tion and di­a­logue.

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