Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Industry & Economy
Government - Foreign Relations
`Political will, sincerity could help overcome disputes'
Musharraf tells Indian business delegation
B. Muralidhar Reddy
The Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, during a meeting with an Indian business delegation led by the FICCI President, Mr Onkar S. Kanwar, at the President's House in Islamabad on Wednesday. - R.V. Moorthy
Islamabad , May 25
THE Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has said that the progress on disputes resolution was imperative for India and Pakistan to move towards a mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation.
Addressing a delegation of Indian businessmen led by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) President, Mr Onkar S. Kanwar, Gen. Musharraf maintained that with "political will and sincerity", the two countries could overcome their political disputes and improve their relations rapidly.
Though he did not directly refer to Kashmir, implied in the suggestion of Gen. Musharraf is the position that unless the issue was resolved, full economic relations between the two countries was not possible.
The 100-member delegation is on a six-day tour of Pakistan for interaction with the Government and Pakistani business community.
A study commissioned by FICCI on India-Pakistan economic relations, which projects the trade potential around $5 billion from the current level of $400 million, is the basis for the interaction. After spending two days in Karachi, the delegation arrived here this morning.
They will return to India on May 27 after a visit to Lahore.
Besides Gen. Musharraf, the delegation met the Prime Minister, Mr Shaukaz Aziz, the Commerce Minister, Mr Humayun Akthar Khan, and the Foreign Minister, Mr Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.
In the course of the meetings, the delegation highlighted a seven-point agenda to boost trade and investment between the two countries.
The crux of the case made by FICCI is that dismantling trade and tariff barriers would enable the two South Asian giants to reap the benefits of faster economic growth and expedite the process of regional integration.
"We have to move forward on the political front effectively for dispute resolution and also simultaneously look for developing trade and economic ties to the benefit of both countries," Gen Musharraf told the delegation.
He hoped that the two countries would not repeat the past mistake of brushing the underlying causes of tension under the carpet and resolve their disputes.
"The past accords between the countries failed as they did not address the lingering disputes and brushed them under the carpet - let us not do it again."
Referring to Pakistan-India peace process, the Pakistan President said he has found the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, to be sincere in his intentions.
"But we cannot guarantee the same degree of harmony between the future leadership," he said underlining the importance of grasping the peace opportunity.
President Musharraf described the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) as an important development for enhancing regional trade co-operation.
At the same time, he maintained that amity between the two countries is essential for translating it into substantive cooperation. South Asia, he noted, also has to expand its trade with other Asian regions including South East Asia, North East Asia and China, which have progressed way ahead.
He expressed the hope that increased interaction between the business leaders of two countries would help create a better understanding on different issues.
The Commerce Minister and senior representatives of the Federation of Pakistani Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) were also present on the occasion.
Mr Kanwar told reporters "augmenting business-to-business cooperation between the two countries is uppermost on FICCI's agenda, a priority that would pave the way for the policy makers in India and Pakistan to remove infrastructural bottlenecks and improve the business and economic environment."
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