By Moayyed Jafri
LAHORE: When ‘Asha’ (hope) meets an opportunity, success is sure to come in addition to confidence and progressive future and with this aspiration, the heavyweights of the Indian industry arrived here for a two-day conference being organised by Aman Ki Asha.
The 2nd Aman Ki Asha Indo-Pak Economic Conference, titled eDividendsi, would start on Monday (today) for which the delegates of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) arrived in the provincial metropolis here on Sunday. The leader of the delegation President and Chairman of Godrej Group, Adi Godrej, termed the conference a groundbreaking event which was laying the foundation for the future interaction and cooperation between businessmen from both the sides of the border. He commended Aman Ki Asha initiative, saying that the move launched by the Jang Group and Times of India had identified the need of fostering people-to-people contacts which would not just bring about better economic relations but would also play a vital role in achieving sustainable peace. Such interactions should be made a regular feature so that all kinks in the procedures regarding bilateral trade be figured out and eliminated.
The senior member of the $5.1 billion plus Hero Group, Managing Director of Hero Cycles Ltd and Chairman of Hero Corporate Service Limited, Sunil Kant Munjal, said eAman Ki Ashai had given a platform for expression of collective sentiments of the peoples of both the countries. The initiative had already done a lot in paving the way for better relations between both the countries and was providing a launch pad to excel though cooperation in all the sectors, he stated.
Munjal said the conference had identified the most important sector of trade and commerce between the countries; however, trade and commerce were not the only sector that would benefit from its dividends. He said the trade hubs and markets of both the countries could benefit from the progress made in the conference.
Terming the conference need of the hour, Head of the Bajaj Group of Companies Rahul Bajaj said that he was participating in the conference with a lot of hope, which needed to be translated into results. Expressing his concerns over the dearth of economic activity between India and Pakistan, he said that it was shame that the two democratic neighboring countries shared a mutual trade of just $2.7 billion. Its astounding, he said, we were very conveniently spending billions on defence while the peoples could only benefit from Indo-Pak trade which we compromised due to egos and skepticism.
Talking about the non-tariff barriers as a major hurdle to the process, Bajaj called for better visa regime and all other measures that would facilitate smooth and progressive trade between the two countries. He said his company had signed an MoU with a Pakistani group and it had been over eight months yet we could not advance our business courtesy cross-border procedural complexities. He urged the governments of both the countries not to compromise the economic future of their peoples over political tension.
The trade between the two countries needed to touch at least $10 billion mark, and that too in a short period of time, Mr Bajaj said. Shutting business activity due to political issues would only exacerbate the problem whether better trade led to sustainable peace or vice versa was yet to be found out but both approaches should be tried, he concluded. Director General Confederation of Indian Industry Chandrajit Banerjee was very positive about the conference. Lauding Aman Ki Asha, he said such interactions would not only lead to better relations but would also help identify the bottlenecks in Indo-Pak trade and the opportunity could find out mutually acceptable solution.
Banerjee said Pakistan and India had their own business strength which could be beneficial and cause lasting business relations. Identifying capacity building in trade and lesser procedural non-tariff-barriers as the two priorities to the road to better mutual business, he said the conference was a golden opportunity to establish such a roadmap.
Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises Rakesh Bharti Mittal said that if both the countries did not realize the undeniable need to foster better trade relationship now, it might just prove too delayed later on. With the western economies in hot waters, who could better exploit it than the top two economies of South Asia. Identifying the bordering provinces of Indian and Pakistani Punjab, he said that both the areas were rich in agriculture and livestock and if Punjab-to-Punjab trade and business activity were ensured, the process would be a success.