ISLAMABAD, Aug 22: Even as their troops exchanged fire in a series of gunbattles in the past two weeks, a delegation of leading Pakistan parliamentarians and traders have left for a four-day visit to India to promote peace and trade between the two countries which have fought at least three wars over Kashmir.
Members of the delegation, which crossed over to India via the Wagah land border, said they would discuss cooperation in trade, education and healthcare and the resolution of issues like the Kashmir dispute in their meetings with their Indian counterparts.
The delegation, apart from having a series of meetings with their counterparts, will also participate in the fourth round of the India-Pakistan parliamentarians’ dialogue. The visit is significant in the backdrop of India’s recent decision to allow investments from Pakistan.
Jehangir Badr, the secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, said the delegation will take steps to boost both peace and commerce between the two countries.
“We will take forward the talks that are being held by the governments and try to speed up trade activities in South Asia and the peace process,” he told reporters at the border on Wednesday.
Senior Awami National Party leader Haji Muhammad Adeel said it would take time to strengthen the bond of friendship between countries that have fought several wars. “But after this government came to power, this process has been speeded up,” he said.
“All problems will be solved when people-to-people interactions increase. The day when the visa process ends on this border and people can walk across with their passports, the problems of water, Siachen and Kashmir will be resolved,” Adeel said.
PML-N leader Khurram Dastagir Khan highlighted the need for progress in resolving contentious issues like the Kashmir dispute and differences in sharing of river waters.
“While there has been progress in trade under this government, we think that there should also be progress in political matters. As long as there are differences between the two governments, trade will continue to be held hostage,” he said.
‘Panel of delegates’
The delegation includes parliamentarians from all major political parties. Iftikhar Ali Malik, vice president of the Pakistan chapter of the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the delegation is visiting India at the invitation of SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Vikramjit Singh Sawhney.
No policy can be successful if stakeholders are not taken into confidence and if trade barriers are not streamlined among SAARC countries, especially India and Pakistan, because both countries are key players in South Asia, Malik said.
Easing the visa regime, frequent exchange of delegations in agriculture, healthcare, education and transfer of technology and expertise can help improve the socio-economic condition of the poor, he said.
Efforts will also be made to remove the fears and apprehensions of Indian traders with the objective of rapid industrialisation of both countries without damaging their respective industries, Malik said.
The scope of joint ventures with Indian investors will also be explored, he added. The delegation will return to Lahore via Wagah on August 26.