The private sector in India and Pakistan can help play a positive role in shaping policies in both countries as the private sector can expand and flourish only in non-restrictive trade regimes, according to Makhdoom Muhammad Amin Fahim, Senior Minister for Commerce, Government of Pakistan.

Speaking at the “India-Pakistan business conclave” with the theme ‘Exploring business between neighbours', organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Mr. Fahim said regional trade had been found to be most effective and efficient means of bringing progress and prosperity to all countries in the region. “This is the reason for the emergence of regional trading blocks like the EU, NAFTA and ASEAN. It is about time we, in the South Asian region, should be contemplating strengthening of our regional trading block in South Asia.''

Mr. Fahim arrived here on Monday on a five-day visit to India along with 80-member trade delegation of leading Pakistani businessmen across 26 business sectors.

Further, Mr. Fahim said, “the volume of bilateral trade was at $1.85 billion last year and this should grow significantly in the years to come. Normalisation of trade relations between India and Pakistan could thus be a vehicle to facilitate resolution of other political issues between the two countries. This would create more chances for success of the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan.''

The irony was not lost on several speakers who alluded to the fact that the conference was being held at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai which was the venue of the terror strike less than three years ago.

Senator Haji Ghulam Ali, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), called for peace and understanding which was necessary with the changing global paradigm and that trade and business between neighbours would go a long way in resolving several differences.

FICCI President Harsh Mariwala said, “we had a closed door meeting on Monday where various issues covering trade, MFN status, new bank branches in Pakistan by Indian Banks and free trade in cotton and engineering items were discussed. FICCI will bring out a paper by November on the issues hampering easier trade between the two countries.

S. M. Muneer, President, India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI), said, India-Pakistan trade was riddled with bottlenecks. “There is potential for huge trade in so many areas like agri-products, automobile spare parts, pharmaceuticals.''

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