With hopes of boosting economic ties and having a congenial atmosphere for trade with Pakistan, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal visited that country with a 45-member delegation on Monday.
The delegation of cabinets ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries, industrialists, traders and agri-experts was welcomed by speaker of Pakistani Punjab assembly Rana Mohammad Iqbal at the Attari border.
Interacting with reporters at the Sree Guru Ram Das Jee International airport, Sukhbir said: "There is tremendous potential for trade between the two nations. We are going there with a lot of hope and talks will be held on a wide range of issues, which would not only enhance trade relations, but also benefit both the Punjabs."
"We will explore what best can be done," he said. The Attari-Wagah border is an important gateway. We are hopeful that in the next couple of months both countries would start the trading of 6,000 items through this border."
Besides talks on trade and business, key issues such as opening of Hussainiwala border and provision of having a corridor to Kartarpur so that people of Punjab in India could travel there to pay obeisance at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, would also be discussed, said the deputy chief minister.
Asked about visa issues, Sukhbir said he would take up the matter of having a visa centre in Amritsar. "For better relations and business, it is important that the visa norms are liberalised," he said. "We have already raised the issue and are quite hopeful that Amritsar and Lahore would soon have visa centres." On plans to export agricultural products to Pakistan, he said options would be discussed.
"People of Pakistan, who visit India for medical facilities, are compelled to go to Delhi for treatment," he said. "We will take up this matter so that they can avail of world-class health facilities in Amritsar as it was easier to travel to and cheaper compared to Delhi.
Preferring not to react on 105kg of heroin being found in cement bags on a Pakistani train coming to India last month, Sukhbir said it was the job of the central government to maintain vigil along the border.
Cabinet ministers who are part of this delegation are Bikram Singh Majithia, Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Sikander Singh Maluka, Anil Joshi and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon.
Member of Parliament Ratan Singh Ajnala, chief parliamentary secretaries Sarup Chand Singla, Virsa Singh Valtoha, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Som Parkash and Harmeet Singh Sandhu are also in the delegation.
Among industrialists are Sonalika Tractor managing director (MD) AS Mittal, SEL Group (Ludhiana) MD Neeraj Kumar Saluja, Khanna Paper Mills director Suneet Kochhar, exporter Rajdeep Uppal, trader Rajinder Singh Uppal, agricultural expert Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha, PHD Chamber (Amritsar) convener Jaideep Singh and others.