The scheduled visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi on Monday has raised the hopes of industry in Punjab that is eyeing Pakistan as a market.
At the same time, it has also raised questions whether the visit would help break the ice for Pakistan granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status.
Fortunes of cycle, cycle parts and other industries in Punjab could turn around if Pakistan removes the items produced by these industries from the negative list.
Cycle industry expects that business worth billions could be generated if it gets a goahead to export bicycles and cycle parts to Pakistan.
An ordinary cycle in Pakistan costs Rs. 6,000, which in India costs around Rs. 3,000. The difference is due to the fact that cycles from India are routed to Pakistan through Singapore and Dubai.
Most members of the industry believe that even if Sharif ’s visit is symbolic, “it is unique in itself and a lot of expectations are attached to it as this could be the start of the dialogue process between the two countries that have so far remained hostile towards each other on the economic front,” said PD Sharma, president of Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Punjab.
He said Punjab would benefit most in case trade became the priority for both countries. “Though it would be too early to think that something will come out of the visit, at least this could be seen as the start of good relations between the two neighbours,” Sharma said.
Cycle industry has been trying hard for a long time that Pakistan should remove cycle and cycle parts from the negative list and allow direct import of these goods. “Punjab that shares border with Pakistan could benefit a lot if Modi is able to get the MFN status for India,” said Gurmeet Kular, president of Federation of Industrial and Commercial Organisation.
He said India was the second largest manufacturer of cycles and cycle parts in the world after China. “We could compete with China only if new markets are available for us and that would be possible only if the new government supports us,” said Kular.
But experts believe that the priority for Pakistan was not improving economy. They say the MFN status to India would also damage the prospects of China, a thing that Pakistan would never do.
“There should be no expectations from the visit of Sharif to India. Kashmir is the priority for Pakistan, not their economy,” said Badish Jindal, vice-chairman of National Productivity Council.