By Amir Zia
NEW DELHI: Prominent business and corporate leaders from Pakistan and India on Tuesday mulled ways to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two nations and stressed the need for out-of-the-box solutions to ensure peace and stability in the nuclear-armed South Asia.
Aman Ki Asha, a joint initiative of South Asia's two giant media houses, the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, provided the platform of two-day business conference, where business leaders not only discussed and explored the possible sectors to increase bilateral trade, business and investment, but some of them also spoke their hearts out to promote the spirit of shared history, common interests and peace.
The first day's hectic proceedings saw more than 24 distinguished speakers presenting their views on various aspects of Pakistan-India trade and economic ties, underlining factors that could be their source of strength and pointing out the bottlenecks, which mar the economic prosperity and development in the region.
After the inaugural session, in which Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest, the first session focused on the theme of "availing the dividends of peace".
Director General, Chamber of Indian Industries, Chandrajit Banerjee, was joined by two heavyweights of their respective fields, N R Narayana Murthy, chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd, India and Dr Shahid Javaid Burki, Pakistanís former finance minister and former vice president of the World Bank, who in their thought provoking presentations highlighted the dividends of peace and cooperation for the two nations.
"Instead of focusing on what divides us, we should remember that, for centuries, we were one nation, one people, united by common hopes, dreams and aspirations," Murthy said. "Our common past is far longer than our divided present. We must find a way to recapture that spirit of oneness and togetherness."
He said that the best chance to promote mutual security was to encourage a strong, bilateral economic relationship. "No country has ever developed and survived without maintaining strong relationships with its neighbours," he said, giving example of Europe, which has been reaping the fruits of integrations despite the two world wars in the first-half of the 20th Century.
"Within just one generation, centuries of conflict have become a distant reality in western Europe... If Europe can overcome the difficulties of history, war and genocide to achieve development and economic prosperity, sure we can as well."
Murthy said that building economic links would also help address the development problems that both our countries face.
"The statistics are sobering: 71.8 out of every 1,000 Indian children will die before their fifth birthday; in Pakistan, the figure stands at 90.4 out of every 1,000 children," he said.
"Our children, most importantly, our girls lack access to education. They do not get enough food to eat, one out of every three malnourished children in the world lives in India and both our countries rank among the top nations in the world in terms of the number of malnourished children, he said, while drawing a list of key challenges faced by the two nations.
"The best way to address these problems is not to rely on the international aid, but to work together to foster an economic relationship that will translate into higher GDP growth for both our countries, generating income that can be used to build vital infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals."
Burki in his presentation said that there remain tremendous opportunities for the two countries if they manage to overcome the challenges.
"Pakistan should change its stance from competitor to collaborator of India to ensure economic gains and prosperity for the entire region," he said, adding that it would help boost economic growth and eliminate poverty.
He said that reduction in tariff was not an issue any more. "The real problem is the non-tariff barrier, which needs to be addressed. The non-tariff barriers are blocking trade in the entire South Asian region, he added.
Burki, while advising the two countries to learn from each others, said that bureaucracy remains a hindrance in economic and trade cooperation. "Bureaucratic structure is not enthusiastic about promoting business and trade," he said, adding that there was no economic rationale behind not granting MFN status to India by Pakistan.
Former governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Ishrat Hussain, CEO Publishing, The Times of India, Ravi Dhariwal, Managing Director, Associated Industries, Wajid Jawad, President, NASSCOM, India, Som Mittal, IBM Pakistan Country General Manager Humayan Bashir, Vice Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Agrimall Ltd Pakistan, Afaq Tiwana, Managing Director, Oxford University Press, Ameena Saiyid, Chairman, Gail (India) Ltd, Bhuvan Chandra Tripathi, President & CEO, Engro Corp Pakistan, Asad Umar, CEO, The Citizen Foundation, Syed Asaad Ayub Ahmad and several other speakers also spoke in the second and third sessions.
Textile, information technology, agriculture, energy, healthcare and education were among the key sectors, which came under discussion.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
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