Businesses ask India, Pakistan to ease restrictions

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Indian and Pakistani businesses Wednesday asked governments in the two countries to remove visa restrictions and allow cell phone roaming facility to boost bilateral trade.

Business leaders from both countries also agreed to collaborate on a wide array of sectors like textiles, IT, education, agriculture, energy and healthcare.

‘Economic cooperation is crucial to peace and progress in a region that has the highest concentration of people living below the poverty line,’ they said in a joint statement at the end of a two-day meet here.

They said they would aggressively pursue their respective governments to take necessary steps to deepen trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday told the conference that trade and commerce could ease tensions between the two neighbours and resolve larger political issues that have bedevilled relations for more than 60 years.

Trade between the two countries grew from $251 million in 2000-01 to $2.3 billion in 2007-08, but dropped 19 percent to $1.81 billion in 2008-09.

Unofficially, however, there is a large volume of exports by India to Pakistan, which is routed through the Gulf countries and Singapore.

The conference on India-Pakistan trade relations drew 75 business leaders from Pakistan. It was hosted jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Pakistan-India CEOs Business Forum and two media groups of south Asia — The Times of India and Jang of Pakistan.

The next such meeting will be held in Pakistan.

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