The sentiments and emotions are strong on both sides. The mindset seems to be changing and for the better. Unmindful of the “political tensions” between the two countries, the common man on the streets in Pakistan and the traders from India and Pakistan have strongly pitched for keeping trade and politics separate from each other.
Be the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry or our very own Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) all are on the common platform that trade between the two countries should get priority over politics and that political tensions should not be allowed to create obstacles in the economic development. The fruits of prosperity should be shared between the two neighbours rather than letting any third economy take advantage of it.
The Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, rightly put it to the audience in Karachi when he said that India and China had border issues and other related “political tensions” but their trade was booming. “Why this cannot happen in the case of India and Pakistan?” he asked.
His views were strongly endorsed by Mian Abrar Ahmed, President, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said Indo-Pak governments should de-link economic and commercial co-operation from politics. Even Pakistan's Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim was of the view that time had come for both the nieghbours to share the untapped economic potential with their people.
Not only the business community but also the common man on the streets of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad was of the view that time had come to put all other issues behind and take the economic relationship to a new level. There is already a strong demand in Pakistan for developing air and sea links between Mumbai and Karachi — the two sister port cities — and put in place the Bombay-Karachi Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry along with setting up of a CEOs' forum.
The issue of mobile connectivity is something that the two countries seriously need to work on as majority of the Pakistan's population resent about mobile phones of both countries not working in each other's territories. “We both have the technology but we require political will to make a new beginning at least in trade. The people of Pakistan are just waiting for the border to open up and you will find that a huge population is waiting to cross over and meet their Indian counterparts. They want to explore India and I am sure the same sentiment must be prevailing in India,”' Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo, Chief Executive of Al-Riaz Agencies, said in Karachi.
Rajan Bharti Mittal of Bharti group said mobile connectivity was not an issue between India and Pakistan as technology was available to make this happen within a short time. “But what is needed is the political will on either side to put in place such a mechanism,” he said.
Mr. Ahmed stressed the need to build trading blocks with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, Central Asian republics, particularly with India and China. “South Asia is now standing at the threshold of peace and prosperity because India and Pakistan have taken serious practical measures and shown greater political determination to develop shared economic relations to foster the process of regional economic cooperation,” he says.
The Chairman of Businessmen Group, Siraj Kassam Teli, said time had come for both countries to transform South Asia with full co-operation to alleviate poverty and bring prosperity in the region. In fact, such has been the aggression among the business community in Pakistan, majority of the chambers of commerce and industry, including those from small townships, are mounting pressure on the Pakistan Government to finalise not only the negative trade list but also grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India to get going with new economic relations at the earliest.