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Amin Faheem, Pakistani Commerce minster visiting India for talks

The trade minister of India and Pakistan are meeting in New Delhi today. After the Mumbai attacks the peace process between the two nuclear armed nation which is known as the ‘composite dialogue’ was suspended and today’s meeting marks the resumption of the dialogue. Lasting peace between the two countries is seen as a key to stability in the South Asian region and helps a troubled transition in Afghanistan as NATO led forces plan their military withdrawal.

For Pakistan, the talks between Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem and his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma may be a welcome distraction for a diplomatic crisis with its biggest ally, the United States. For India, the talks are a small step further to achieving what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sees as his most important goal of permanent peace, although major issues such as the fate of Kashmir remain unsolved.

Pakistan and India my be home to some 1.5 billion people, but bilateral trade flows are paltry. A legacy of mistrust between the South Asian neighbours. The achievements are likely to be modest, from opening trading posts to stamping more business visas, but even small moves can improve frayed ties. Irritants abound. Trade across what is one of  the world’s most heavily militarised borders is severely restricted both in number of items that are permitted to be bought and sold and the hours during which the customs are open for business.

Wagha Border Crossing

Islamabad wants New Delhi to lower what it says are unfair barriers to trade, such as cumbersome approval procedures for exporters selling anything from cement to fruit and vegetables. Another sore point is India’s continued opposition to a scheme proposed by the European Union to boost textile exports from ares of Pakistan ravaged by floods with duty waivers. The EU and Pakistani diplomats have said India could drop its veto against the scheme.

It is in both Indian and Pakistani interest that relations between the two nations calm down, both nations are ravaged by poverty and yet both nations are spending billions of dollars on military equipment. Trade would improve quality of life on both sides of the border, visa regulations should also be relaxed and a peaceful resolution to the Kashmiri problem is essential in achieving long-lasting peace.

 

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