Pride of place for Pakistan

NEW DELHI, AUG.21. Taking the warmth in India-Pakistan relations into the literary field as well, the 10th Delhi Book Fair has opened at Pragati Maidan here with a large participation of Pakistani publishers and with India's neighbour being its central theme.

The nine-day fair is witnessing the participation of about 150 Pakistan nationals representing well over 100 Publishing Houses which have put up their works at 20 stalls.

Though last year too some publishers from Pakistan had participated in the fair, this is the first time that such a large delegation has crossed the border to promote literary exchanges.

The Pakistan delegation is led by the famous poet, Ahmed Faraz, who said the overwhelming response received here last year made the publishers realise that they have an important role to play in improving relations between the two neighbours.

Dr. Faraz also announced that as a reciprocal gesture, Indian publishers would be invited to attend the upcoming Lahore Book Fair. Noting that the book fair was the best platform for introducing the Indian readers to Pakistani books and publishers, the Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Aziz Ahmed Khan, speaking to mediapersons said he was sure that the coming in of a large Pakistani delegation would enhance the understanding about the country here.

Thrilled at response

The Pakistani publishers also appeared thrilled at the response they have received here and said they were very upbeat about the business prospects. "The business between the two countries has definitely gone up in the last two years,'' said Shahid Baig of Oxford University Press, Pakistan, adding that as people no longer have to transport the books via Dubai the costs have gone down considerably.

As the books can now be sent directly either by air or through road, he said, the trade scenario is looking up.

The Karachi-based Mr. Baig said he was hoping that the Rajasthan border would also be opened soon as that would facilitate business further.

"Our consignment has got delayed in Amritsar and with the truckers' strike that has just begun it would take some more time to reach here,'' he said, pointing to the difficulties.

Islamic works

While some Pakistani publishers like OUP Pakistan have brought different kinds of general and academic books, others have come with religious books as well. Aftab Hashmi of Pakistan Publishers and Book Sellers said their stall is stocked with different Islamic works.

Now on his first visit to India, he said he was looking forward to visiting a number of places in Delhi during the course of the fair before moving to Agra for where too he has got a visa.

Noting that only about 20 per cent of the applicant publishers have managed to come to India as those who applied late were not issued visas, he hoped that in the years to come the visa norms would be further simplified to promote all kinds of exchanges between the two countries.