India wants access to Central Asia, says deputy high commissioner


LAHORE-Deputy High Commissioner/charge d’affaires, High Commission of India, Dr M Suresh Kumar has said that India has never stopped trade between the two countries but trade was stopped by Pakistan. The two countries are still doing trade but the volume is far below the potential.

He was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI President Kashif Anwar and Senior Vice President Zafar Mahmood Chaudhry also spoke on the occasion while Executive Committee members were present, said a press statement issued by LCCI. Dr. M. Suresh Kumar said that the transit trade is extremely important as Central Asia is a big market and India needs access to it. Similarly, he said, Central Asia also needs access to India. He said India is going to become the largest economy in the world very soon.

He said that our service sector has grown enormously. Now we are focusing on manufacturing like automobile and electronics manufacturing. He said that India always wants better relations with Pakistan because we cannot change geography. The two countries have always been neighbors. He said that it would be better to see how we can change our problems and situations. We want to move towards normal relations. He said that in the last few years, due to Corona, the number of visas decreased but now thirty thousand visas are being issued every year which is a huge number. Medical visas are also being issued. He said that a lot of sports activities are happening between the two countries. We have not denied any visa for sports yet. Earlier diplomacy used to focus on political work, now the time is gone. Gone are the days when embassies compiled political reports. Now diplomacy is done for tourism, trade and technology because money speaks its own language.

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He said that currently, we have a trade of 120 billion dollars with China, in which the balance of trade is towards China. Imports are not always wrong, but they also have advantages. He said that the technology is very important. Intellectual property has become more important than physical property. By sitting in distant countries and manufacturing in other countries, Europe is making money due to intellectual property rights. Universities in Europe focus on technology. We have also started linking our universities with industry. He said that startups are growing rapidly in India right now. Currently, India ranks third in the list of eco-startup countries. Traditionally we were in the service sector. If we can do all these things then Pakistan can also do it. The importance of geo-economics cannot be denied. GT Road runs from India to Kabul. Connectivity is very important. We desperately need to work on it. He said that if we talk about the auto sector, the world’s biggest auto companies are working in India. We have imposed heavy taxes on imported vehicles to benefit the local industry. More business visas should be issued. As long as people don’t go to each other’s countries, there will be no increase in business.

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LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that it is a heartening reality that the vast majority of people in both Pakistan and India harbour feelings of immense warmth and brotherhood towards one another. These deep connections have many dimensions: historical, as well as contemporary. The people of both countries have mutual respect and admiration for each other’s famous personalities in sports, showbiz, arts and literature. He said it is generally considered that improving economic relations between India and Pakistan is a complex issue that requires addressing a range of political, economic, and social factors. We are of the view that the foremost step that could be taken to improve economic relations between India and Pakistan is the normalization of trade relations. This would bring substantial economic benefits evenly to both the countries. The LCCI president said that Pakistan and India are the two most populous and largest economies in the South Asian region. Being the dominant constituents of SAARC, both have a great potential for intra-regional trade. It is worth mentioning that trade is even occurring informally and this results in a lost opportunity for regular visits from both sides. It is usually taking place through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and resultantly both Pakistanis and Indians miss the opportunity to get engaged in deep and truly long-lasting personal connections.

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He said that coming to sector specific opportunities, fruits and vegetables are a key category of essential items that both Pakistan and India produce in great abundance. Unfortunately, both countries experience great shortages of certain fruits or vegetables in some seasons or years. The silver lining is that the same shortages can result in an opportunity for export along with associated benefits of relationship-building, such as new friendships, cultural appreciation and even more opportunities for further business expansion. The same can be said about the livestock sector.

He said that the both countries can expand their sphere of religious tourism as many of important Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions important worship places are in Pakistan and for Muslims the shrines of Hazrat Nizam ud Din Aulia, Hazrat Moin ud Din Chishti and other Sufi saints are in India which are highly regarded in Muslim culture and can be used to expand religious tourism between both countries. Kashif Anwar said that Pakistan can import cotton from India, as Pakistan regularly needs cotton for its strong and resilient textiles industry. The land route from India would result in cost savings for Pakistani companies compared with imports from far-away markets.

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Additionally, Pakistan can also buy other goods from India, which would result in savings of both time and money and these include: certain kinds of machinery, engineering goods, spare parts, medicines, industrial raw materials and certain chemicals/dyes etc. President LCCI said that there is a huge potential for women entrepreneurs as they can also exchange their expertise and their work like jewelry, designer items, cloths and artifacts.

He said that simultaneously, India has experienced shortages of cement at certain times in recent years and the land route from Pakistan presents an excellent bargain. Furthermore, Pakistan has attained expertise in certain niche areas such as sports & leather goods, surgical instruments and certain types of textiles that could complement the existing availability of goods for Indian consumers. With regards to the potential of transit trade in which Indians can export their products to Central Asia and other markets via the land route, this should surely be considered as well.

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