April 19, 2022 (MLN): It is time that Pakistan and India should resume trade and improve relations for their betterment, said the head of the Nishat conglomerate, Mian Mohammed Mansha in an interview with The Indian Express recently.
Mr Mian Mansha, Pakistan’s top industrialist said that there are many synergies between the two countries that can come into play once trade begins.
“I feel very passionately that we need to get our things sorted out with India. Now whatever the issues that are impeding, let them be there. But once they come to one another’s country, through trade, tourism – religious tourism or normal tourism — I think the doors will start opening,” he stated.
Earlier this year, the chairman of the Nishat group had called for the resumption of trade with India to take a regional approach to economic development at a meeting of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Reiterating the statements he made at that meeting, Mr Mansha said if India could continue to import from China despite its border issues, there was no reason for Pakistan not to resume trade with India, the report noted.
“I think there’s nothing better than having good relations with your neighbours. And you can’t change neighbours,” he said, suggesting that importing from India would benefit Pakistan.
“I am a businessman. That’s why I say that if something is cheaper in India, why should I buy that from another country? The transportation cost is less (from India),” he said.
“There are so many products that we could buy. We (the Nishat Group) make Hyundai cars. Hyundai India is very big. We could buy some parts cheaper from India, than buying from China, for example. And you are also trading with China in such a large way. Your imports from China are huge, and if you look at it, you also have issues with China on the issue of territories and all that.”
Trade relations between the two countries dwindled after India doubled tariffs following the Pulwama attack in February 2019. Later, after India’s decision to revoke the law providing special status or autonomy to occupied Kashmir, Pakistan suspended trade with India in August 2019.
Last year, days after the Army chief indicated that it had a “geo-economic vision” of South Asia, Pakistan decided the resumption of restricted trade with India for cotton and sugar. However, the decision was abruptly cancelled after several ministers of ouster government Imran Khan’s government opposed it.
On trade, Mansha said a beginning could be made with Pakistan importing cotton from India and exporting cement, it added.
“I am in the cement business. We have one big plant, in Chakwal district (of Pakistan Punjab province). India doesn’t have limestone in Punjab and areas around the border, so it is much cheaper to buy Pakistani cement. We used to export a lot of cement to India, till all this trading abruptly stopped. So, it is not a bad idea if we could import cotton, and we could export some cement to India,” he highlighted.
“I also deal with cotton textile companies, where we want to use Indian cotton. And we also grow a lot of cottons and now we are buying some cotton from Afghanistan, and from so many other countries that we import. Our cotton seasons are slightly different. When you grow cotton, we don’t grow cotton at that time. It would be very good when our season comes, you could buy it from us. And when yours comes, we could import it from you, rather than paying carrying charges from other countries,” he told the Indian Express.
With regards to investment, Mian Mansha said it too should begin. “For example, if Tata invests in Pakistan, you will have employees here… and I think interconnections do build up”.
There would be hawks on both sides, he acknowledged. He mentioned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was treated with suspicion at the beginning but has been beneficial for Mexico, the US and Canada.
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