Trade Development Authority of Pakistan TDAP held the first-ever high-end lifestyle exhibition from Pakistan to India at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi from April 12 to April 15, 2012. Titled ‘Lifestyle Pakistan’ it showcased over a hundred top brands and designers from Pakistan who are known for their design and quality the world over.
There were some of the best specimens of fashion textiles and apparel, designer furniture, leather goods, accessories, food products, marble, ornaments and intricate handicrafts, including those of the famous onyx — mined from Balochistan, but hand-crafted in Karachi. TDAP Chief Executive Tariq Puri said, “Regional trade focus with countries in our region is the key objective of TDAP.”
He added, “We are keen to translate cultural, social affinity and strong connect between people of India and Pakistan into expanded bilateral trade, commercial relations. Presence of large businessmen delegation and exhibition of such scale will help explore infinite possibilities and opportunities in bilateral trade in both countries… With ‘Lifestyle Pakistan’, we presented Pakistan’s best to India and now look forward to developing synergies in areas of common interest. Indian Commerce Ministry of India and ITPO cooperated and collaborated in extending extraordinary support and facilitation for this initiative. We look forward to aligning and developing projects which could help further strengthening our ties.”
Pakistani style and more
India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma along with Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim got together for the second time in New Delhi to inaugurate the exhibition on April 12. Some of leading Pakistani business houses participating in the exhibition were Gul Ahmed, AlKaram, Hub Leather, Khaadi, Chen One, Bonanza, Shamaeel by Sitara, Nishat & Orient Textile Mills among others.
The Food Extravaganza at Pragati Maidan’s Food Court had a spread of finger-licking delicacies like assorted stuffed naans, kebabs, korma and not to miss, biryani. Last but certainly not the least were musical performances and an art exhibition. “There were some misgivings but on coming here we see that Delhi is a great place and so are the people here,” said Rehan Bashir, a young Pakistani artist on his first visit to India. Like others, Rita Menon, Chairman & MD ITPO is hopeful, for cultural exchange. She said, “We welcome this initiative of TDAP and delighted to collaborate with them. We look forward to a vast range of product showcase from a culturally rich and diverse country like Pakistan.”
In September last year, after 64 years of relations severely strained by three conventional wars, nuclearisation and the fourth war by proxy export of terrorism by Pakistan’s military to India continuing since three decades, the meeting of commerce ministers and industrialists of both countries after a gap of 35 years, indeed came as an unexpected but not unpleasant surprise.
Pakistan’s Commerce and Trade Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, accompanied by an 80-member delegation of elite businessmen, came on a five-day visit to India, to attend the two country business conclave, organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, sessions of which were held at Mumbai and New Delhi from to September 26-30, 2011.
Pakistani business leaders were very optimistic that their visit would help in settling critical trade issues like issuance of multiple visa for Pakistan’s bonafide businessmen for at least one year, end to non-tariff barriers for Pakistani goods destined to Indian markets, giving the status of ‘Most Favourite Nation’ (MFN) to India, implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). Following the meetings and deliberations, India agreed to withdraw its objections filed with WTO on European Union market access and concessions accorded to 75 Pakistani goods, which business leaders acknowledged as a major fillip.
Fahim’s first visit materialising barely two months after Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s July 2011 visit, must obviously have been the result of some positive atmosphere generated during talks with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna, preceded by foreign secretary level parleys, which included a number of steps to boost cross-Kashmir trade and travel. The present level of trade between both sides of nearly $2.5 billion is expected to go up 10 times with Pakistan initiating the process to accord most favoured nation (MFN) status to India for trade.
Shoots of hope?
Following the severe 2005 earthquake in POK, India had opened three points at Chakan Da Bagh (Poonch), Teetwal (Tangdhar) and Aman Setu (Uri) on the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan for facilitating large-scale relief stores. ‘Lifestyle Pakistan’ was made possible by a massive effort of building a newly-constructed integrated check post (ICP) at Attari, near Amritsar, along the international border between India and Pakistan, inaugurated on April 13 by P Chidambaram in the presence of Fahim, Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, and union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma among others.
The ICP, 30 km from Amritsar (280 km from Chandigarh), which had a soft launch on April 8 prior to its formal inauguration, is spread over 120 acres and built at a cost of nearly `150 crores, will have the state-of-the-art facilities including 16 immigration counters, 12 customs counters, dedicated terminals for cargo and passengers over an area of 4,700 sq m, a truck-parking area of 55,000 sq m and a helipad for emergency needs.
A joint press statement issued by the two ministers stated, “The ministers expressed the wish that discussions may continue at the official level for possibilities of opening more land customs stations between both countries…This would enhance greater economic engagement between business communities of both sides and deepen bilateral cooperation for the mutual prosperity of their people”. Meanwhile export of terrorism continues unabated. According to a recent editorial in Early Times, Jammu, on one hand, Pakistan seems to be keen in promoting ties with India through the process of dialogue aimed at reducing trust deficit, on the other hand, Pak army and the ISI continue to sustain conflict and aid to militants.
Since 2004, even after the border ceasefire, Pakistani troops have constructed of 886 bunkers, 261 morchas, 398 towers and 143 border outposts on the Line of Control and the International Boundary. Wasim Akram Malik, the key conspirator of the Delhi high court blast in September 2011 revealed terror outfits, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami, are now adopting a new strategy for yet again motivating Kashmiri youth to militancy. Fighting against odds, can we hope for aman (peace) to defeat terror? Inshallah!