New Delhi, May 19 (ANI): Corporate leaders of both India and Pakistan have urged their respective governments to undertake all steps necessary to realise the latent potential of bilateral trade and commerce.
During a historic meet of top Indian and Pakistani CEOs and entrepreneurs, the objectives of the 'Aman ki Asha initiative launched by the Times of India Group and the Jang Group were endorsed.
Besides, it was felt that there is a need to take forward achievable objectives.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, during his inaugural address on this occasion, stressed upon the strong linkage and interdependence between peace and sustained economic growth and development of the two countries.
The meet noted with concern that South Asia is the world's least economically integrated region.
After a robust and interactive two-day discussion, industry leaders of both countries agreed that economic cooperation is crucial to peace and progress in a region that has the highest concentration of people living below the poverty line.
The business leaders resolved to aggressively pursue the benefits of economic cooperation generally and in particular recommended thefollowing:
The sectors, which were identified as having the highest potential included textiles, information technology (IT), healthcare, energy sector, education and skill development.
Textiles, the largest employer in both countries, holds potential exists for the export of home textiles from Pakistan to India while a huge market exists in Pakistan for India's polyester textiles.
Information Technology (IT), the fastest growing sector in both countries and the easiest area to cooperate in, given its virtual nature. It was felt hat India can collaborate with Pakistan, which can provide skilled resources at competitive rates.
Agriculture holds considerable potential for trade through streamlining logistics and storage facilities. It was felt that India and Pakistan can also collaborate on research for improved yields in, and greater export for, both countries.
On healthcare, it was observed that poor health infrastructure is a common problem. Opportunity for collaboration exists in research and combating the three major diseases in both countries -- heart, diabetes and cancer.
In energy sector, it was observed that India and Pakistan have huge untapped reserves of energy. Collaboration can lend impetus to accelerated growth and development in both countries, which have a huge appetite for energy.
Given the low average age in both countries (18.2 years in Pakistan and 22.5 years in India), it ws felt that education and skill development is an area of immediate concern and potential.
During the programme, committees comprising business leaders from both countries were established for the IT and textile sectors. Similar committees for other sectors are in the process of being set up.
In addition to the promotion of bilateral trade, the business meet proposed that specific steps be taken to change public perception and remove the existing mistrust.
It was however, felt that esing visa restrictions and simply letting people meet is the single greatest step the governments can take,that will have the greatest impact in all areas of concern. Business visas particularly need to be facilitated.
It was also observed that India and Pakistan are probably the only two neighbouring countries in the world that disallow cell-phone roaming facility. The business and media representatives resolved to lobby against this unnecessary and counterproductive restriction.
The meeting agreed to set up a permanent secretariat to follow up all on these recommendations.
It was unanimously agreed that the next economic conference would be held in Pakistan on a date of mutual convenience. (ANI)