Lasting peace between India, Pak essential to ensure stable South Asia: Bansal
New Delhi, Mar 14 : Asserting that India and Pakistan have a shared lineage with much in common in terms of culture, cuisines and languages, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Thursday said a lasting peace between both nations backed by improved trade and commerce links between them is essential to ensure a stable and prosperous South Asia.
Delivering a key-note address at the two-day annual conference on 'Normalising India-Pakistan Trade' here, Bansal said: "Improved relations between India and Pakistan will also set a new paradigm for the integration of South Asia as a whole. Emerging trends now point towards a shift in traditional engines of growth from industrial countries to emerging economies."
"In such a scenario, strengthening the process of South Asian Integration presents tremendous opportunities. However, in terms of intraregional trade and investment in goods and services, South Asia continues to lag far behind other regions. Clearly, a lasting peace between India and Pakistan backed by improved trade and commerce links between them is essential to ensure a stable and prosperous South Asia," he added.
With a view to address the need and aspirations of people of both the countries, Bansal said: "Railways of the two countries have taken a lead with introduction of Samjhauta Express running via Attari - Wagah border in Punjab and Thar Express running via Munabao - Khokrapar border in Rajasthan. Successful running of these two services symbolises the resolve of the people of both the countries to cut across the barriers of a political boundary."
"The large Indian and Pakistani diaspora in many different countries across the world have built strong mutual relationships and live alongside each other in peace and harmony and share many cultural traits. In fact, many of my friends have told me that the ideal host in a foreign country is a Pakistani," he added.
Bansal said India and Pakistan are moving towards normalizing their bilateral trading regimes, and added that there will be new trading opportunities for both countries.
"There is a large untapped trade potential between the two countries, and various estimates suggest that potential trade could vary between 0.5 to 20 times of actual trade. A large part of this has been taking place through informal channels - largely through third countries- and goes unaccounted for. But I am sure that as both countries move towards normal trade relations, with the removal of the trade barriers and the subsequent reduction of trade costs, a significant part of informal trade will shift to formal trade channels," he added.
"Trade facilitation measure such as development of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) will give a boost to the bilateral trade through the land route," he said.
"One other step to give further fillip to the bilateral trade between the two countries could be introduction of containerization. Rail based movement of containers across the boundary will not only ease the road traffic, but also help trade in offering door-to-door service to its customers, which would also help in cutting down the transaction cost," he added.
He further said that there are large trade possibilities in several sectors such as agriculture and processed food items, petroleum products, chemicals, automobiles, processed foods and textiles.
"These possibilities could be realized effectively if firms link up to global and regional value chains. There are also possibilities in the services sector. Information technology, healthcare and the audio-visual sector are most promising," he said.
"For deeper and stronger trade linkages, it is important that there are foreign investment flows between the two countries. India now welcomes Foreign Investment from Pakistan and Indian industry would be glad to invest in Pakistan," he added.