The move by the Pakistan Government to prune the negative list has received widespread applause from both sides of the border with the Central Government and India Inc welcoming the decision aimed at normalising trade relations between the two nations.
However, there is a note of caution. Notifying the list will have to be accompanied by measures such as putting in place a liberal visa regime, opening of bank branches, enhancing road and rail communication, enabling operation of mobile phones on both sides and removing non-tariff barriers. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said it was one of the biggest confidence-building measures initiated to normalise relations between the two countries.
During his visit to Pakistan last month, Pakistan's Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim had assured him that a final decision in the matter would be taken by end-February.
“I am happy that this has been achieved,'' he said.
India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President S. M. Muneer said that without the provision of banking services, opening of letters of credit, and cross-border transactions of funds, trade could not taken place. He urged both countries to remove non-tariff barriers. He said trade facilitation through expeditious border crossings, streamlining documentation requirements, border agency coordination, opening of new border crossings, quick customs clearance and electronic data interchange was required immediately.
Former President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nasser Hyatt Maggo, said India should now take the initiative to respond to the concerns of Pakistan businessmen. “It is time that a liberal visa regime is put in place. Rather than restrictions, both governments should help in facilitation of trade at the borders,'' Mr. Maggo added.
Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Secretary General Rajiv Kumar said, “This will not only normalise India-Pakistan bilateral trade but also pave way for much higher intra-regional trade within the SAARC region.''
“FICCI is especially satisfied with this development because it has been pursuing the cause of normalisation of India-Pakistan bilateral ties vigorously over the last one year,'' he added.
Win-win for both
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said a majority of tradable items of both sides would be freely permissible which would be a clear win-win for both sides. “Pakistan can import raw material and finished goods from India at competitive prices and India can get benefit of the strength of the many sectors where Pakistan is strong,'' Sunil Kant Munjal, past President of CII, said.