ISLAMABAD: After pause of several months, Pakistan and India have resumed trade talks at secretary level in New Delhi in order to promote bilateral trade relations between two neighboring countries.
The two arch-rivals which publicly declared their ability to become part of nuclear club during the decade of 90s have been left without no other option but to normalize their bilateral relations in order to ensure peace and tranquility in the South Asian region.
The policy of looking towards East is gaining impetus all around the globe and Indo-Pak can only exploit the existing potential if both decide joining hands to transform themselves into hub of economic activities instead of treating each other as adversaries in the context of heavy baggage on the basis of experiences of the past.
After restoring peace and joining hands in war against terror by both countries, Pakistan and India can explore close cooperation in areas of bilateral trade and cooperation in energy sector that can translate into providing benefits to both the countries.
India had granted Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan but Islamabad had not far reciprocated on this front. But Pakistani side had always complained that despite extending MFN status, New Delhi used different kinds of tariff as well as non tariff barriers to block Pakistan’s exports to India in recent past so granting of MFN did not help Islamabad boosting its exports in quantum leap.
On the issue of granting MFN status to India, the last PPP led regime made apparent progress and left almost 1100 items which were not yet allowed while remaining 6600 tariff lines were allowed in trading with India.
As political transition is in the final stages in India and after the new leadership assumes its charge it is expected that both the countries will find ways and means to enhance bilateral trade relations. The import of electricity from India is heading towards advanced stage with the financial and technical assistance of the World Bank.
The Planning Commission, which is preparing salient features of next five year plan, has estimated that the country’s GDP growth could touch 7 percent mark in next five years because huge untapped potential existed in this economy.
Pakistan’s industry was running at 50 percent capacity and if power situation improved and industry achieved level of its operation in the range of 70 percent the country’s economic activities would be restored and GDP would be pushed up by 1 to 2 percent on per annum basis.
According to the WB assessment, the electricity trade between Pakistan and India will be completed in next two years. India and Pakistan are working on energy cooperation as there is no regional energy sharing mechanism in this region and it is the only way forward to end crisis.
Pakistan had placed formal request to World Bank (WB) for providing multi-million dollar assistance for importing 500MW electricity from India. Considering watershed developments between India and Pakistan, the WB official said Pak industrial load shedding resulted into loss of 400,000 jobs. Sri Lanka is the only country in the South Asian region with a surplus in electricity and all other countries are energy deficit but there is no energy trade scheme.
Pakistan and Afghanistan can import electricity from Central Asian states for lowering down power shortages in their countries.
Feasibility studies have confirmed technical and economic viability of exporting summer time electricity surpluses from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan from existing power plants to relieve power shortages in Pakistan and Afghanistan.