Div­i­dends of Lahore Con­fer­ence

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A“I feel op­ti­mistic when I see that over the past 12 months the two coun­tries have moved fast not just to nor­mal­ize re­la­tions but to re­move ir­ri­tants which ham­per trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions.”

-Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan

ccord­ing to Shahrukh Hasan, Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Jang Group, the peo­ple of In­dia and Pak­istan har­bour no ill will to­wards each other. “They are acutely aware of the cost and fu­til­ity of con­flict and de­sire peace­ful re­la­tions. The re­la­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ments on the other hand – whether due to the bag­gage of his­tory they carry, or the bur­den of what they see as ‘na­tional in­ter­est’ – are in stark con­trast,” there­fore, some in­ter­ven­tion was needed.

He said this was the rea­son why the Jang Group felt that if there was one thing it could do for Pak­istan, it was to try and am­i­ca­bly and eq­ui­tably re­solve prob­lems with In­dia. This was not a move­ment that could only be started in Pak­istan; it had to be mir­rored by a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment and a sim­i­lar com­mit­ment from In­dia. The nat­u­ral choice was The Times of In­dia and, con­se­quently, a log­i­cal peace process called “Aman ki Asha’ was ini­ti­ated for the mu­tual ben­e­fit of both the coun­tries.

Based on this un­der­stand­ing and con­ver­gence, the gov­ern­ments of both the coun­tries, have de­rived greater com­fort and con­fi­dence in trad­ing con­ces­sions that are needed to fairly and eq­ui­tably re­solve is­sues and, as such, the role of Aman ki Asha is that of a fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

Tak­ing for­ward the ‘trade for peace’ agenda ini­ti­ated with its ground­break­ing Indo-Pak busi­ness con­fer­ence in May 2010, Aman ki Asha or­ga­nized ‘Div­i­dends’, the Sec­ond Indo-Pak Eco­nomic Con­fer­ence in Lahore, on May 7 and 8, this year in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try (CII), Pak­istan Busi­ness Coun­cil (PBC), Trade De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Pak­istan (TDAP) and the Na­tional Bank of Pak­istan.

On April 18, 2012, the CII and PBC signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MoU) with Aman ki Asha, Jang Group and Times of In­dia, agree­ing to host an­nual con­fer­ences al­ter­nately in In­dia and Pak­istan. The Lahore con­fer­ence was the first event un­der this part­ner­ship.

The Lahore con­fer­ence is bound to be of greater sig­nif­i­cance against the back­drop of the re­cent de­vel­op­ments in trade di­plo­macy. Pak­istan’s decision, to grant In­dia the ‘Most Favoured Na­tion sta­tus, has been de­scribed by the In­dian com­merce sec­re­tary Rahul Khuller as

a “game changer.”

Weeks af­ter Pak­istan opened up a long­stand­ing bar­rier to In­dian im­ports by mov­ing to a neg­a­tive list of trade items from a re­stric­tive pos­i­tive list, 45 In­dian CEOs headed to Lahore to take part in ‘Div­i­dends’. The In­dian con­tin­gent was led by Adi Go­drej, Pres­i­dent Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try (CII) and Chair­man, Go­drej group. Said Go­drej, “We must ex­pand on the pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment be­tween the two coun­tries in re­cent months to boost trade and in­vest­ments. We are striv­ing for a meet­ing of minds be­tween the two coun­tries’ in­dus­tri­al­ists and decision mak­ers.”

The con­fer­ence pro­gram in­cluded seven ses­sions spread over two days in which ex­perts from both sides par­tic­i­pated in de­tailed dis­cus­sions on a pol­icy frame­work for Indo-Pak trade, prospects of open­ing up In­dian mar­kets for Pak­istan, po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of per­ma­nent peace, poli­cies for at­tract­ing bi­lat­eral in­vest­ment, bank­ing re­la­tions and other key is­sues.

The con­fer­ence laid down a roadmap for en­hanc­ing Indo-Pak eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in or­der to re­al­ize the trade po­ten­tial. It also worked to re­move mis­per­cep­tions that still ex­ist re­gard­ing open­ing of full-fledged trade with In­dia.

The pres­ence of the three Pak­istani fed­eral min­is­ters, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh, Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Hina Rab­bani Khar, For­eign Min­is­ter and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Com­merce Min­is­ter, de­picted Pak­istan’s se­ri­ous­ness in build­ing stronger ties with In­dia.

The del­e­gates at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence were the best am­bas­sadors of peace for both coun­tries and each had an im­por­tant role to play in fur­ther­ing the re­la­tion­ship and build­ing the foun­da­tions of durable peace.

Ac­cord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter, Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, “The world is march­ing on and it is time for us to shed the bag­gage of the past, grab the op­por­tu­nity at hand and act with an ur­gency to build a re­la­tion­ship of mu­tual trust. We have lost pre­cious time and should not al­low its wastage any­more.”

Prais­ing In­dia’s decision to al­low in­vest­ment from Pak­istan, the Prime Min­is­ter said now Pak­istan was wait­ing for some prac­ti­cal steps for re­moval of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers which had ham­pered ex­ports to the In­dian mar­ket.

He fur­ther said, “We have pushed the re­form agenda and stayed com­mit­ted to the poli­cies of eco­nomic lib­er­al­iza­tion, dereg­u­la­tion and pri­va­ti­za­tion, be­sides en­cour­ag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to play a greater role in the econ­omy.”

“We are aware of the fact that with­out en­hanc­ing re­gional trade the coun­try can­not re­al­ize its full po­ten­tial, there­fore, im­proved re­la­tions with In­dia are im­por­tant for us as it of­fers a bil­lion-plus mar­ket to Pak­istani ex­porters.” He said a lib­eral trade regime en­sured flow of cheaper im­ports for both coun­tries due to their ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity and re­sul­tant lower freight costs.

Sharat Sab­har­wal, In­dian High Com­mis­sioner in Pak­istan, said that In­dia and Pak­istan should tar­get $12 bil­lion trade within next five years, as­sert­ing, “Our grow­ing eco­nomic agenda also in­cludes fi­nal­iza­tion of modal­i­ties of electricity trade be­tween the two coun­tries and trade in petroleum prod­ucts.”

Sab­har­wal said, “We will like to carry the process of trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion for­ward in a man­ner to cre­ate a win-win sit­u­a­tion for both sides. “We are ready to com­mence dis­cus­sion on re­duc­ing the size of sen­si­tive lists un­der SAFTA. In­dia has also agreed to For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment (FDI) from Pak­istan for which nec­es­sary pro­ce­dures and re­quire­ments are be­ing for­mu­lated.” In his ad­dress at Aman Ki Asha Eco­nomic Con­fer­ence, Adi Go­drej, CII Pres­i­dent said, “Mat­ters per­tain­ing to FDI, non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers, en­ergy trade, open­ing of air and land trade routes be­tween the two coun­tries needed greater fo­cus,” he said, and added, “Then we will be able to con­verge our po­ten­tial to gain $10 bil­lion bi­lat­eral trade vol­ume by 2015.”

Asad Umar, Chair­man, PBC, also expressed the view that the PBC wished im­proved trade ties with In­dia and as soon bar­ri­ers were re­moved it would be bet­ter for cit­i­zens of both coun­tries, and that “we will re­ally be en­ter­ing into a mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship”.

He, how­ever, expressed con­cern that Pak­istani tex­tile prod­ucts were not given at­ten­tion by the In­dian side, which had fo­cused on tex­tile ex­ports from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and added that un­less In­dia re­solved the mat­ter, the Pak-In­dia peace ini­tia­tive could not bear tan­gi­ble re­sults.

A del­e­ga­tion of the In­dian stock mar­ket vis­ited the Lahore Stock Ex­change, where they shared their own ex­pe­ri­ences of de­mu­tu­al­iza­tion at a lun­cheon hosted by the Lahore Stock Ex­change for the vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries of the In­dian Cap­i­tal Mar­ket.

The del­e­ga­tion com­prised Joseph Massey, CEO, MCX Stock Ex­change, In­dia and Chair­man, South Asian Fed­er­a­tion of Ex­changes (SAFE), Dr. Dal­bir Singh, Chair­man, Delhi Stock Ex­change (DSE), and other di­rec­tors of DSE, Jus­tice Vinod Kumar, Ma­hen­dra Nath, Vi­jay Kumar and Anuj Chowdhry. The del­e­ga­tion held dis­cus­sions with the Board of Di­rec­tors and mem­bers of the Com­mit­tee over­see­ing de­mu­tu­al­iza­tion at LSE.

Aftab Ahmed Chaud­hary, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, LSE, in his ad­dress said the tim­ing of the visit could not have been bet­ter as the Ex­changes in Pak­istan were in the process of de­mu­tu­al­iza­tion. “We can learn a great deal from the ex­pe­ri­ence of Delhi Stock Ex­change and MCX in a post­de­mu­tu­al­iza­tion en­vi­ron­ment.”

Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani ad­dress­ing the con­fer­ence.

From left: Chan­dra­jit Ban­er­jee, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try, Shah­baz Sharif, Chief Min­is­ter of Pun­jab, Pak­istan, Adi Go­drej, Pres­i­dent, CII, Im­ran As­lam, CEO, Geo TV, Shahrukh Hasan, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Jang Group and Amin...

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