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Gilani calls for 'new era' in economic ties with India

Pakistan today called for a "new era" in economic collaboration with India, as business leaders from the two countries met for a trade conference.

business Updated: May 08, 2012 02:00 IST


Pakistan on Monday called for a "new era" in economic collaboration with India, as business leaders from the two countries met for a trade conference.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the population of Pakistan's giant neighbour offered his country's exporters a "billion-plus market", adding normal trade relations were vital to Pakistan achieving its economic potential.

Relations between the countries have been fraught since independence in 1947 and trade has been hampered by restrictions and tariffs -- even now, direct cross-border traffic accounts for less than one percent of their global commerce.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars and both spend heavily on their military while millions of their people languish in poverty.

But Gilani said: "We want to start a new era of economic collaboration with India... so that we leave behind a legacy of peace and prosperity for our future generations."

He told delegates there were many areas and sectors with huge trade potential, from information technology to engineering, education and health.

"Our textiles, I am told, have a huge market across the border," he said, adding that India could find a market in Pakistan for goods including chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering products.

Pakistan has decided to grant India "most favoured nation" trading status by the end of the year, ending strict curbs on what New Delhi can export across their border.

At present, Pakistan maintains a list of 1,945 items allowed to run from India to Pakistan -- but only 108 can be transported directly by road through the Wagah crossing in Punjab.

India now also says it is ready to end a ban on investment from Pakistan and the countries are planning to allow multiple-entry business visas to spur exchanges -- a key demand by company executives.

Last year India exported goods worth $2.33 billion to Pakistan, while its imports from its neighbour were worth $330 million.

But Adi Godrej, the Confederation of Indian Industry president who is leading the Indian delegation, said: "By 2015, we should be able to achieve the target of $10 billion mutual trade between India and Pakistan.