Traders from India and Pakistan have made a strong pitch to the governments of both sides for opening up trade routes with the belief that it could bring both the countries closer. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are expected to meet in Washington DC on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, which will be held from March 31-April 1.
The traders from India and Pakistan, especially the ones in the border areas of Amritsar and Lahore, have intensified their lobbying to enhance trade ties through “Wagah-Attari” border. The traders in both countries have been trying to influence their governments to open trade routes. Kirat Singh, an exporter of perishable vegetables on the Amritsar -Wagah road said: “Businesses can bring both nations together once again.” “Once thriving business towns, these cities had to suffer a lot with the closure of trade route. Industry also shunned border towns, as tensions mounted to new levels between two nations in the past, ” he added.
The bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stood at $2.3 billion in 2014-15. Exports to Pakistan declined while imports from Pakistan increased in recent times. In 2012, Pakistan had shifted 1209 Indian items to the negative list that prevented those items to be imported from India. At present, Pakistan allows only 137 items from the negative list to be imported through the Wagah-Attari border.
The exporters in both countries have also called for liberalisation of visa regime, a proposal to which politicians, on both sides, were reluctant. As the Pathankot terror attacks stalled dialogue process between the two countries, many analysts and traders believe that the opening up of trade routes can help improve India-Pakistan relations.
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