Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Monday undertook a historic visit to Pakistan through the Wagah border with the commitment to double bilateral trade in the next three years and remove trade barriers to share economic prosperity with its neighbour and facilitate people to people exchange.
Walking into Lahore, Mr. Sharma, leading a huge delegation of Indian CEOs and officials, was given a warm welcome and received at the border by Pakistan Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Pakistan Ambassador to India Shahid Mailk.
During his four-day stay in Pakistan, Mr. Sharma will hold bilateral talks with Mr. Fahim and address the CEOs of Pakistan and India in Karachi and Islamabad.
“India is committed to taking the economic and trade relationship with Pakistan to a new level. I have come to Pakistan with an open mind and to achieve substantial progress in our talks. We are working hard on opening the second gate and an integrated customers' post (ICP) at the Wagah-Attari border and hope to finish the task by April 30. The talks will help us in taking forward the process of peace and trade and we will work towards deepening and diversifying the relationship,'' he told journalists at the Pakistan side of the border. Mr. Sharma said they would talk on all issues. Pakistan had taken some positive steps and India was putting in place certain big steps to break down the barriers that had prevented the growth of trade and denied economic prosperity to the people of the two countries, he said. “It is time for India and Pakistan to draw up a road map. We have commitments from both sides. We have been trading through third countries and time has come to engage in direct trade. We are committed to dismantling of all trade barriers,'' he added.
Mr. Sharma said India supported Pakistan's case for a European Union-proposed duty waiver on 75 Pakistani products. The waiver was proposed to help Pakistan cope with the impact of floods that devastated the country in 2010. “When there were floods in Pakistan, India supported its case for providing it access to the markets of the European Union,'' he said.