New Delhi: Nearly after three decades, an Indian trade minister will visit Pakistan, for three days starting February 13, accompanied by a large business delegation, with a view to strengthening economic ties.
Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma, along with an 80-member strong delegation, will visit Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to interact with Pakistani CEOs and officials.
"Amount of interest for this historic visit is huge. Large SMEs are also accompanying. Both the countries are going to gain from this visit," FICCI President R V Kanoria said.
The main objective of the three-day visit is to completely normalise trade ties between the countries.
"I have no doubt in my mind that bilateral trade which currently stands at about USD 3 billion can be raised to USD 10 billion if trade through third countries (Dubai, Singapore and Central Asian countries) is channelised into direct exchanges between the countries," Kanoria said.
Third country trade or circular trade between India and Pakistan is at present reckoned at USD 10 billion.
India' and Pakistan's trade with each other amounts to less than 1 percent of their respective global trade.

Pakistan now maintains a positive list of 1938 items which can officially importable from India. On the other hand, India has extended the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and does not impose equivalent formal restrictions on exports or imports from Pakistan.

Indian industry would like the Pakistan Government to adopt the negative list approach at the earliest and subsequently grant MFN status to India.

From February, 2012, Pakistan would shift to the negative list of few items, which it would not import from India. By the end of 2012, it has agreed, the negative list itself should be removed.

"Several restrictions on official trade compel both the countries to import certain goods from far off sources which they can easily import from each other," Kanoria added.

India-Pakistan trade would ensure cheaper raw materials and low transportation which would translate into quality goods at competitive prices for both the countries, he said.

There is a large potential of trade in services, especially Indian export services like IT and IT enabled services, medical, construction and tourism.

At present, there are no joint ventures between the two countries.  However, potential for joint ventures exists in large number of areas including chemicals, textiles, hydropower, tourism and IT.