Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a leading consumer group in India and working internationally, welcomes India and Pakistan’s move to take trade route to peace. “Boosting trade and investment across borders will be the most significant confidence building measures that the two countries are taking. Revival of the Joint Business Council should move forward to devise implementable actions so that consumers from both the countries benefit,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS.
At present, Pakistani consumers are paying huge prices for commodities like tea and automobile parts, as they are imported from sources other than India. Similarly, Indian consumers will benefit from imports of textiles and handicrafts from Pakistan. Two countries should also explore complementarities in the production of specific items and the benefit of approaching the Central Asian markets jointly. India should look Pakistan as a transit to Central Asia, whereas Pakistan should use facilities in India to get better markets in South and South East Asia.
Better trade and investment relations between India and Pakistan are a must for South Asia to gain from global trade liberalisation. Trade can also significantly reduce poverty, which is a challenge before the political leadership of the region. He cited examples of European Union and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) to highlight peace dividends that closer economic ties among contiguous geographical entities can bring. Robust trade relation is an effective deterrent to reduce tension between countries. This was not only witnessed in Europe and South East Asia, but also that India and China are talking in similar line to boost trade ties.
It is not true that India and Pakistan do not collaborate with each other at multilateral fora. Both are members of the G-20 group of nations, which is a body emerging significantly at the WTO platform of trade negotiations. Another example is cricket: India and Pakistan (and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) talk in one voice at the International Cricket Council. “These are building blocks and trade can act as a ‘cementing factor’ to strengthen this relationship,” Mehta expressed.