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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014

Punjab deputy CM back from Pak, puts onus of improving ties on Centre

Aseem Bassi, Hindustan Times  Attari, November 09, 2012
First Published: 20:01 IST(9/11/2012) | Last Updated: 20:04 IST(9/11/2012)

Terming the tour of Pakistan as historic, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal said that both the Punjabs have shown great eagerness for economic prosperity of the region and now the onus was on Union governments of India and Pakistan to carry forward the dialogue.

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Returning to India after a five-day visit to Pakistan, Sukhbir who headed the 45-member delegation from the state said, "Both Punjabs have great potential of changing the profile of this region through strong trade, cultural and sports ties. During the visit key discussions and decisions were taken that can set a new era."

Detailing on the key decisions taken between both the Punjabs, the deputy chief minister said, "During talks with Pakistani Punjab chief minister Shahbaaz Sharif, decision was taken to form a Joint Working Committee for trade and commerce that would have 10 members each from both Punjabs. We will work out a blue print for increasing commerce and industrial ties. The meetings of the joint working committee will be held regularly."

"Other than this, one major proposal was to set up a joint industrial zone at the Wagah-Attari wherein a large chunk of land could be earmarked and companies from both the nations can set up factories there and produce goods.  The goods produced in this zone can be traded between two nations without any duty or tax," stressed the deputy chief minister.

Announcing that Pakistani Punjab chief minister has accepted the invitation and will be the chief guest during the Kabbadi World Cup final in Ludhiana in December, Sukhbir Badal said, "We are very committed to this dialogue between the two Punjabs. Now their Punjab CM Shahbaaz Sharif has accepted our invitation and will be here in December long with a group of ministers and businessmen."

Stressing that since sports plays a key role in bringing nations together a decision was taken to start bi-annual Punjab Cup for Cricket, Hockey, Wrestling and Tug-of-War.

The deputy CM said that he has also requested Speaker Pak Punjab assembly Rana Iqbal Mohammad to organize matches between MLAs of Punjab assembly and Member of provincial assembly of Pak Punjab in the games of cricket and if possible in Kabaddi also.

On the other issues taken up during the tour of Pakistan, Badal said, "We also raised the issue of Visa Consulate at Lahore and Amritsar to facilitate Visa to the traders and pilgrims. I asked the Pakistani Punjab CM to persuade his government to open Hussainiwala and Suleman Ki (Fazilka) borders as with increased trade and commerce between both the countries, there could be proper dispersal of business."

During the visit, apart from requesting Pak Punjab CM to initiate Student Exchange Program to encourage people to people contact, I also requested them to persuade Union government to open corridor to Kartarpur Sahib and handing over the upkeep of Sikh shrines in Pakistan to SGPC, added Sukhbir Badal.

On a question, the deputy CM who was confident that things would move forward, said, "We have given our best and discussed issues that bring great prosperity to the region. Now it is for the Union government to step up efforts and give clearances to the decisions taken by both the Punjabs."

I don't think they will have any trouble because it is for better economic ties, he added.

The deputy CM also claimed that he had taken up the matter of border smuggling with Shahbaz Sharif and he has assured that the matter will be taken up with Pakistan's federal government.

Punjab cabinet minister Bikram Majithia who was also part of the delegation said, "One could feel that even people on both sides of the border want progress in trade and commerce. Both Punjabs have made a strong effort and union Governments must take it ahead."

The delegation was given was given warm send off by Speaker of Pakistani Punjab assembly Rana Iqbal Mohammad and education minister of Punjab province Mian Zayeem Hussain Qadri.


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