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Despite many issues and hindrances, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan reached $2.2 billion in 2016-17, though there is a potential to go up to $30bn per year, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria said on Saturday.

During an interaction with members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and media at the chamber, the high commissioner’s comments were sought on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The country’s (India) position is very clear on CPEC for certain reasons. However, it is good to establish connectivity in the region,” he said.

The envoy stressed that there was a lot of positivity among the people of India and Pakistan. “The governments also have positive intentions to normalise relations. There is need for taking at least small positive steps to create environment for major decisions on different counts,” he added.

Moving towards this direction, India has taken a “baby” step by softening its visa policy for Pakistan’s senior citizen and the children under the age of 12 years, and issuing visas on humanitarian ground in some cases.

Responding to a question, he said normally it took 30 to 35 days to process an application by a Pakistani citizen for an Indian visa. However, the Indian mission here has tried its best to make the process easier, he added.

When pointed out that Pakistani businessmen were issued India visas at the eleventh hour to attend or participate in any trade event, the Indian high commissioner assured that in future they would get visa in time.

He suggested that business communities and the general public on the both sides should come up and form pressure groups/lobbies to push their government to work for closer relations in the two countries.

He was optimistic that both the governments had adopted positive approach and had agreed that both the countries should respect each other.

He said both the countries had also decided to exchange the prisoners.

He appreciated Pakistan Navy’s good gesture to save India fishermen from drowning in the sea.

The India diplomat said there should also be a series of cricket matches between the two neighbouring counties to normalise the environment and bring the people closer.

He said Karachi was a safer place even for foreigners. To another query, he said it was possible that both the countries could exchange students especially in the field of management.

President KCCI Muffasar Atta Malik, Chairman, Businessmen Group KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, Senior Vice President KCCI Abdul Basit Haji Abdul Razzaq and former president KCCI A Q Khalil were also present at the gathering.

By: Dawn

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