Indian, Pakistani businessmen to meet in July

Thursday, 19 June 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Indian businessmen will meet in India next month to "enhance relations" between them despite strained political ties between the two countries.

"This is a perfect opportunity for bilateral trade and Pakistani businessmen want to enhance our relations," said parliamentarian Ilyas Bilour, co-president of the India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI).

"Indians and Pakistanis have suffered a lot because of disputes between the two states... For how long (can this continue)?. I believe one day our governments will have to resolve these issues," said Bilour, a member of the Senate, the upper house of Parliament.

The meeting of the chamber will take place on July 7 and 8 in New Delhi. It is being held in the wake of moves towards the normalisation of bilateral ties. The chamber was formed in 1999 and has since held two meetings.

On the reluctance of Pakistan to give India most favoured nation (MFN) status, Bilour told IANS: "We will have to give this status after two years, if not now."

"I don't see any threat to our industry if we grant MFN status to India, we are well prepared for it. This would be a big confidence building measure," he said.

He said the situation would change in 2005 when trade barriers would be completely removed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime.

Bilour said he and other businessmen from both countries have confidence in the measures being taken by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan. "We are hopeful our countries will find permanent solutions (to longstanding disputes)."

During the meeting, businessmen will discuss ways to enhance trade as well as help their respective governments in improving bilateral relations, Bilour said.

Bilour said his delegation has yet not decided on the mode of travel. "Let's hope air services resume by that time and we'll go by plane to Delhi," he said.

Bilour and his colleagues have applied for "all types of entry visas" -- bus and plane -- to the Indian embassy. "We may also opt for bus," he said.

India and Pakistan have said the Lahore-Delhi bus service will be restored by July 1 and a team from Islamabad is visiting New Delhi to finalise the details.

Bilour said originally the business chamber's meeting was scheduled for June 27 and 28 but it had been delayed due to travel problems.

Bilour, likely to be elected president of IPCCI in the meet, said this time it is Pakistan's turn to chair the chamber and the co-president will be from India.

Bilour said that during their Indian tour they would visit the Ajmer Sharif shrine in Rajasthan as well as Shimla. "Some of the businessmen have planned a visit to (the commercial capital) Mumbai to meet their Indian counterparts."

According to the country profile prepared by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there is potential in India for Pakistani exports of marine products, plastic products, rice, raw wool, leather products, cotton and readymade textiles, surgical instruments, electric fans, water coolers and dry fruits.

In 2000-01, official trade between the two countries was at $293.74 million while unofficial trade and smuggling reportedly accounted for $1.5 billion.
Source: IANS
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