SAARC trade must not be held hostage to Indo-Pak ties
Panellists and participants at a discussion on 'Leveraging Peace for Profit' said economic integration of SAARC countries should not be made a hostage to Indo-Pak relationship.india Updated: Apr 03, 2007 16:59 IST
Economic integration of SAARC countries should not be made a hostage to Indo-Pak relationship. This was the view of panellists and participants at a discussion on 'Leveraging Peace for Profit' at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative conference here.
The experts said it made sense to put the Indo-Pak issue aside in order to begin with a bilateral relationship. They gave the example of the Singapore-Thailand alliance within the ASEAN trade block.
Concurring with the suggestion, Planning Commission member NK Singh said there was a need to build trust between India and each of the SAARC nations. Noting that India had not been able to tap the hydroelectric resources of Nepal or the gas reserves of Bangladesh, Singh said trust was missing between India and the other SAARC countries.
Hindustan Lever chairman MS Banga felt that being the dominant player in the region, India needed to take unilateral decisions so that others could follow.
Though the business community in India and Pakistan is aware of the advantages of encouraging trade between the countries, what holds them back is Kashmir.
"It is wrong on our part to restrict the region to India and Pakistan and their relationship," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who was in the audience.
Striking a similar chord, Hari Bhartia, who heads the Indo-Pak business forum, said: "The Pakistani business community wants to expand business with us but wonders whether increasing commerce between the two will hinder negotiations on the Kashmir issue."
He wondered whether it would be possible for them overcome this barrier.
Observing that the economic agenda of a country was also determined politically, former RBI governor Bimal Jalan said there was no conflict between the two.
Reliance Industries vice-chairman Anil Ambani said everyone was waiting for the time when economics would drive the political agenda.
From the audience, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia said the youth of the country were ready to put politics on the back burner to ensure that the region grew into an economic block.
Ambani said there was a need to divorce the economic and political agendas.