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India and Pakistan Must Increase Cooperation, Says High Commissioner

India’s outgoing High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal has called for closer cooperation between the textile industries of the two nations.

Addressing the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) in Lahore, Sabharwal said that the industries can generate employment and increase economic gains by coordinating activities between the two countries, despite changes in their political relationship.

Trade facilities have been extended between India and Pakistan, as well as a process for streamlining visas. Many in Pakistan have protested that the facilities have allowed India to flood the country with cheap goods, while Indians have insulated themselves from Pakistani exports by maintaining other supports for their domestic industries.

Sabharwal countered this, pointing out that the Indian government has eliminated restrictions on foreign investment in the sector and has also begun phasing out the negative list. India is decreasing the current list of 600 negative items to 100 items, and dropping the tariff on those items to 5 percent. The remainder of the items will be phased out over the next five years.

APTMA chairman Ahsan Bashir praised Sabharwal’s efforts, saying that the visa facility extended by the India government has been remarkable. He also expressed hope that further barriers to trade between the two countries, including infrastructure problems at the main border crossing, could be resolved.

Sabharwal created a special visa service for members of the APTMA, allowing one-year trip entry visas covering 10 cities, exempted from police investigation. The targets are the CEOs and Directors of APTMA, as well as their spouses and executives from member countries.

Trade between India and Pakistan is around $1.15 billion, but has great potential to grow as restrictions are removed and investors explore new opportunities.