Even as businesses from both sides of the border have been pushing for enhancing economic engagement between India and Pakistan, the proposal for creating a ‘zero trade zone’ at the Wagah-Attari border, which would not require visa, for trade related transactions and interactions has made little progress due to freeze in the relations between the two nations.
The formal proposal in this regard and under the consideration of Commerce Ministries of both the countries but progress has been a bit slow due to recent incidents on the LoC and the freeze in India-Pak relations. The idea behind the whole exercise was to create a ‘zero trade zone’ at a neutral point on the Wagah-Attari border which would not require businessmen from any of the side to have a visa.
“It is a brilliant idea to create a trading zone where people from both sides could deposit their passports with their respective immigration authorities and then move to the neutral point for a meeting and indulge in discussions on various economic and trade issues,” a senior of the Commerce Ministry said.
This would not require businessmen from either side to go through the lengthy process of applying for the visa and then getting it and they would be eligible to meet at this neutral point and discuss business and trade. This will give a big boost to trade and economic engagement on both sides and further increase the people to people contact. “We are not pushing the proposal with great force as presently things between India and Pakistan are not normal and there is a certain amount of freeze in the relations. But maybe a few months down the line, this idea could be implemented on ground,” the official added.
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Vikramjit Singh Sahney said such a neutral trading point would provide businessmen an opportunity to meet each and discuss without any visa requirement. “We have also proposed to the government to set up conference rooms, display centres and one-window operation facilities at the neutral point. It would help in cementing business relationships,” Mr. Sahney said.
He also felt that Pakistan must announce non-discriminatory access for Indian goods and services. Despite the fact that both the countries signed a liberalised visa agreement last year, businessmen are still facing problems. He urged both India and Pakistan to seriously implement the idea of developing a Zero Point Border Market at the border.
Pakistan-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, S.M. Muneer strongly backed the creation of such a neutral zone and said it would lead to resolution of many of the problems faced by businesses and give a big fillip to trade and commerce.