Indian HC vows to address MFN concerns


Indian high commissioner in Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal has said that business community’s concerns regarding MFN to India will be addressed fully. In this regard a team of Indian experts is visiting Pakistan in the first quarter of 2012 to discuss Non-Tariff Barriers, he added. Indian high commissioner was speaking at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh presented welcome address, while Senior Vice President Kashif Younis Meher and Vice President Saeeda Nazar also gave their point of view on trade with India.
High commissioner said post-MFN agreement implications are under active consideration among concerned authorities of both countries. He said customs coordination between the two countries is being worked out to sort out all customs procedures related issues. He added that the bottom line for present Indian regime is to promote trade between Pakistan and India in larger interests of people of the countries.
He said India was making efforts to resolve visa problems for Pakistani business community and that multiple visas for one year will be issued to businessmen under visa liberalisation policy by the Indian high commission. Draft of said visa policy is likely to be approved by Indian government, he added. He further said that at present visas are granted under 1974’s visa policy of India.
However, frequent travellers visiting under business visa are exempted from police reporting.
He said Pakistani business community had showed a positive response for promoting trade with India and Indian government also made strenuous efforts for increasing bilateral trade volume from $2 billion to $6 billion plus. Sharat Sabharwal pointed out that a separate gate and other facilities were being established at Wahgah/Atary border for handling of export cargo 12 hours daily. Establishment of a separate gate would also provide hurdle-free transportation facilities at the border, he added.
Sharat Sabharwal disclosed that a well-equipped check post worth Rs1.5 billion had been established at Pak-India border which will facilitate bilateral trade between the countries. He said bilateral trade was on top of the agenda and Indian experts will help overcome energy crisis in Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani business communities are willing to promote economic and trade relations with idea of enhancing volume of bilateral trade between the neighbouring countries for peace and to end poverty,” he added. In his welcome address, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said earliest removal of Non Tariff Barriers will largely consolidate business community efforts as most of the businessmen are not fully aware of Indian standards and quality parameters which also vary from city to city. Pakistani exporters have to spend a lot of time and money to obtain certain certifications and fulfill requirements of clearing; but still they fall short of conforming to any particular condition, he added.
He said there are numerous conditions for getting shipments cleared which include agriculture permits, phyto-sanitary certificates, Indian standard of quality, licensing requirement for import of vehicles, textile specific barriers, health and safety regulations and many more. It is hoped that this area will be taken care of in near future by Indian government with special preference given to Pakistan. He said it can be said without a doubt that potential gains from increased economic integration between India and Pakistan are large. Trade between the two countries is unnaturally small and scope for gains from increased trade correspondingly large.
It goes without saying that due to tight visa policy, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan has remained undersized and averages around $1.7 billion over the past 3 years through regular channels. Whereas overall volume of trade between India and Pakistan through irregular channels like Dubai, Singapore and etc is estimated to be around over three billion dollars per annum. According to some estimates, trade with India has the potential to be anywhere between 8 to 10 billion dollars. “If trade between Pakistan and India is liberalised the volume of exports of these commodities to India can take a quantum jump.” Similarly, there is a great potential for export of fish, resins, animal and vegetable fats, beverages, spirits, vinegar, leather and leather goods, carpets, and tobacco. Similarly, Pakistan can import cotton seed, meat, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, tea, tanning, dyeing extracts, chemical products, rubber and rubber products, raw materials and semi finished products etc.
SAARC Chamber Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik, LCCI former Presidents Shahzada Alam Monoo, Mian Tajammal Hussain, Mian Anjum Nisar, former KCCI President Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, former Senior Vice Presidents Abdul Basit, Sohail Lashari, former Vice Presidents Aftab Ahmad Vohra and Shafqat Saeed Piracha also spoke on the occasion.