Attari (Punjab): Accompanied by a 45-member delegation, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday arrived in Pakistan's Lahore city to explore more avenues of overland trade with Pakistan's Punjab province and help change the geopolitics of the subcontinent.

The delegation included five cabinet ministers, legislators, officers, industrialists and exporters and agriculture experts "The trade through the land border route has big scope of increasing in the coming time. We will discuss this with the government, industrialists and traders there. This will benefit Punjab on both sides of the border," Badal told reporters in Attari, 30 km from Amritsar.

"I am confident that by December 31, the neighbouring countries would start trading 6,000 items through the Wagah border, thereby paving the way for transformation of the whole south Asian region," Badal told reporters before crossing the international border in Attari. He said the members of the delegation would deliberate with their Pakistani counterparts to explore the way for taking bilateral trade into the next orbit besides strengthening the bonds between both Punjabs.

Badal said they would also discuss the key issue of opening of Hussainiwala border besides a provision of Kartarpur corridor so that people of Punjab could visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. He said the Punjab government was making concerted efforts for opening up of a Pakistan visa centre at Amritsar and a similar one for Indian visas at Lahore.

Punjab Chief Secretary Rakesh Singh had recently taken up the issue with appropriate authorities in India and Pakistan and he was hopeful that Amritsar and Lahore would soon have visa centres to facilitate people, he said. Ahead of the visit, Badal said over the weekend that more liberal trade between the two Punjabs through the Attari-Wagah border would be a "game changer" for the economy of north India. Stressing that trade is an important confidence-building measure (CBM), he asked the Indian government to liberalise archaic economic rules to make two-way trade easier and  enter the central Asian and Iranian markets.

"We will be discussing the trade issues. The decision on increasing trade has to be taken by the governments of India and Pakistan," said Badal. Across the border, Badal was given a warm welcome by the Pakistan Punjab assembly speaker Rana Iqbal.

From Wagah, Badal was flown to Lahore city, 20 km from Attari, in a government helicopter. The cabinet ministers in Badal's delegation include Bikram Singh Majithia (revenue), Sarwan Singh Phillaur (tourism), Sikander Singh Maluka (education), Anil Joshi  (industries) and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon (public works).

Three chief parliamentary secretaries and two legislators are also accompanying him.Members of the delegation would visit Lahore and Nankana Sahib, birth place of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, during the four-day visit.


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