Free expression of views, apprehensions hallmark of the moot; trade policies, visa restrictions, reservations about trader lists discussed
LAHORE: The two-day 2nd Aman Ki Asha Indo-Pak Economic Conference, a ground-breaking event in normalisation of trade relationship between the two countries, culminated on Tuesday on a positive note with participants urging the quarters concerned to materialise the goals set during the discussions for mutual prosperity.
The conference, a joint venture of the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, got an immense response from the top official, political and business circles in Pakistan. The event was unique in the sense that the top business tycoons from India participated in it and interacted with their Pakistani counterparts in a cordial environment. The Aman Ki Asha platform had the prestige to arrange joint rendezvous for the elite Indian and Pakistani businessmen to have a get-together, openly expressing their apprehensions and views on policies of governments of their countries pertaining to commerce and trade in presence of government functionaries and political hierarchy of Pakistan.
The participants of the conference discussed trade policies, visa restrictions as well as their reservations about positive, negative and sensitive trade lists besides opening more trade routes. The high commissioners from India and Pakistan remained present through the conference to give the guideline and vision of their governments pertaining to trade policy and visa restrictions.
The conference had distinction of being the first in history when the guests from India, considered to be the richest of the rich in their country, spared time to visit Pakistan to discuss trade issues with their counterparts in presence of Pakistani officials.
The distinguished among the visiting Indian business magnets were Adi Godrej, Sunil Kant Munjal, Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Adesh Gupta, Rahul Bajaj, Chandrajit Banerjee and Harsh Manglik who arrived Pakistan mostly through their private jets along with their families while the others crossed the Wagah border.
Immediately after reaching Pakistan, the delegates were hosted by two-time prime minister and PML-N President Nawaz Sharif at his Raiwind residence. Nawaz discussed with them the achievements of his 1997 government vis--vis cordial relationship with India. He demanded from both the governments for immediately lifting visa restrictions and even went to the extent of asking the federal government for doing it unilaterally without waiting for the response from Indian government.
MCB Chairman Mian Mansha also hosted a sumptuous dinner for the Indian guests the same night. After a hectic daylong engagement of the delegates in the conference on Monday, they were taken to historical Hazuri Bagh to enjoy classical music gala and to taste traditional Lahori dishes in a serene environment. Quite interestingly, the historical Anarkali Bazaar remained the focus of visiting delegates who were anxious to throng the bazaar for shopping. While delegates were busy in strengthening business knots with their Pakistani counterparts, their wives visited various places of Lahore for shopping, particularly showing interest in clothes.
Keeping in view the importance and significance of delegates, the top Pakistan government functionaries, including Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani attended the inaugural session. He assured the Indian delegates of complete cooperation of the federal government for expanding trade ties between the two countries. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was the chief guest in the fourth session on the same day. The second day conference started with PTI Chairman Imran Khan as chief guest in the first session while Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif chaired the concluding session.
Imran was accompanied by two party members and former Foreign Ministers Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri and Shah Mahmood Qureshi who assisted him for the event and he, in his keynote address, talked about the partyis vision for maintaining relationship with India.
It was significant that Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal, Pakistani High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik, Federal Commerce Minister Zafar Mahmood, former Ambassador to the US and High Commissioner to UK Maleeha Lodhi and former Governor State Bank of Punjab Dr Ishrat Hussain remained present in the conference for two consecutive days. The business elite in Pakistan, present throughout the conference, were Hussain Dawood, Chairman Dawood Group, Razzak Dawood, Chairman Descon, Mian Muhammad Mansha, Chairman MCB, Syed Babar Ali, Founder Packages Limited, Amin Hashwani, Chairman Pak-India CEO Forum, Asad Umar, Chairman Pakistan Business Council, and many others from different chambers of commerce and industries in Pakistan. US Consul General in Lahore Nina Fite along with her staff, former ISI chief and Ambassador to US Muhammad Ali Durrani, artist Faizan Pirzada, media tycoons, political workers, economic experts and members of the civil society also participated.
Meanwhile, majority of the delegates left for India on Tuesday after two days of vibrant and constructive discussion sessions. The delegates who had private jets left for their country through three private flights between 3pm and 5pm with the exception of Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, who would leave on Wednesday (today). Almost all the delegates who had arrived through the Wagah border left while some stayed back for sightseeing and others to meet their acquaintances.
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw