Speech by High Commissioner at the Seminar on Business Opportunities in...

Speech by High Commissioner at the Seminar on Business Opportunities in India [February 15, 2016]

Speech by High Commissioner at the Seminar on "Business Opportunities in India"

Ladies and Gentlemen from the Business World of Pakistan,
Colleagues from the High Commission of India,


1. First, I extend a very warm welcome to all of you at this Seminar on Business Opportunities in India. We are extremely happy that so many of you are here with us today.

2. I recently arrived in Islamabad to take up the post of India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan. I had the honour of presenting my credentials to the Hon’ble President of Pakistan last week. My wife and I are delighted to be in Pakistan. We have been very warmly received and welcomed in Islamabad. I thank the people of Pakistan for their kindness. You have indeed been very gracious.

3. This seminar today is my first public speaking opportunity in your country and I am happy it is on a subject very close to my heart namely the possibilities of trade and investment between our countries and the opportunities for Pakistan business in India.

4. As all of you know, India is a populous country with a large economy which is growing at roughly 7 per cent every year. The income levels of our people are expanding rapidly. Therefore, India represents a very large market that is growing fast and hence has extensive opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs from all countries across the globe including Pakistan.

5. Ladies and Gentlemen, in the South Asian regional context including in SAARC, the value proposition India has made to all its neighbouring countries, is that please utilize the rapidly expanding Indian economy for your own benefit and for your own growth through the medium of trade and investment. Many of India’s neighbours, including those in South Asia, have indeed leveraged India’s market for their own benefit, their own development and their own prosperity. Today, I would like to make this proposal to Pakistan’s businesses, that is to all of you present here today. Please capitalize on India’s growing market to sell more of your goods and products there and through such trade contribute to the prosperity of your own country Pakistan.

6. I know that some of you may ask the very pertinent question - Why is the Indian High Commissioner being so generous? Why is he being so kind? This is a very good and important question to ask. The answer is very simple. The answer is very rational. Economic theory tells us that trade is good for both partners; that trade is good for both trading nations. Therefore, greater trade flows between India and Pakistan will not merely be good for Pakistan, it will also be good for India. It will be a win-win situation for both of us.

7. Ladies and Gentlemen, as per current statistics bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was a mere US$ 2.35 billion in 2014-2015. This is an abysmally low figure for two large expanding economies such as ours. We also know and recognize that some of our bilateral trade take place through third countries mainly Dubai. Even if one were to add such trade, the volume of exports and imports between us is still very low. Surely, we can do better than this! We also owe it to our people. Through such enhanced trade and investment we can provide greater prosperity and better living standard to people in both our countries. These are very important objectives for both India and Pakistan.

8. It is in this light that I would venture to say and suggest that when the India -Pakistan dialogue commences, perhaps we should focus on enhancing trade and economic relations between our countries. This will be one of the many issues we need to discuss when we have our bilateral consultations.

9. We must factor into our thinking that a great deal of spadework has already been done on the business side of our relationship. Particularly between 2012 and 2014, an entire roadmap had been drawn up by the two countries on how we could proceed in commercial ties. Even now we could work according to that outline. If that is not convenient, we could work out a new way forward on business contacts. In this matter, India is willing to move ahead in close consultation with Pakistan’s authorities. We are willing to work step by step with you. We will not be found wanting.

10. Over the past few weeks, I have had many interesting conversations with businessmen and businesswomen of your country. I was happy and delighted to see the confidence they have in selling Pakistan’s goods and products in the Indian market. They are not afraid of any kind of flood of Indian goods into Pakistan. Your enthusiasm has been refreshing and infectious. I can tell you that business people in India also look forward to enhancing trade and expanding economic ties with Pakistan.

11. I would venture to state that the governments of our two countries will need to keep up with the times and facilitate greater business between India and Pakistan. We will keep in mind that greater economic interaction is itself an enormous Confidence Building Measure or CBM. It has been utilized very effectively in other parts of the globe for building greater trust and confidence between neighbouring countries.

12. One question which will naturally come to your mind is that how can business take place when getting a visa is so difficult? This is a legitimate question. It is a very valid query. There is little doubt in my mind that if we have to encourage greater trade ties between our countries, the two governments will have to sit together and work out a more liberal visa regime. I think this is possible. I think this is probable. More importantly, I think this is doable.

13. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude my remarks today by reiterating my belief that the road to the normalization of India – Pakistan relations lies through greater business ties, enhanced trade links and increasing cross investments between our two countries. I invite you all to work with us towards this goal.

Thank you
February 15, 2016

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