Huge strides made in improving ties: Gilani
‘Non-State Actors Determined To Harm Bilateral Relations’
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Lahore, May 7: India and Pakistan have made “huge strides” in normalizing trade relations in the span of just a year but the two countries should not be complacent as non-state actors are determined to harm the bilateral peace process, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday.
Gilani made the remarks while addressing a conference of top businessmen of the two countries in the capital of Punjab province. He said improved ties with India “are important for us as it offers a billion-plus market to the Pakistani exporters”.
The premier said that over the past 12 months, the two countries had “moved fast not just to normalize relations but remove those irritants which hamper trade and economic relations”.
“It was in April 2011 when the two countries announced their intention to normalize bilateral trade relations. And by April 2012, we have made huge strides in this direction,” he said.
Pakistan decided to scrap the positive list regime for imports from India and replace it with a negative list and the Wagah-Attari Trade Gate, which opened recently, will go a long way in boosting the volume of trade, he said.
At the same time, Gilani warned, the two sides must remain vigilant to thwart elements that could endanger the peace process which resumed last year.
“I must caution that recent successes do not mean that we should become complacent. We face many challenges and threats from forces inimical to peace,” he said.
“We are passing through turbulent times in our history in which non-state actors are determined to harm the peace process. Such forces are present on both sides of the border and we have to remain vigilant that they are not able to derail our hard earned gains,” he said without giving details.
Gilani said he had extended “unwavering support” to peace and people-to-people contacts.
“Notwithstanding the ups and downs in our bilateral relations, our support to the cause of peace and normalization of relations with India has remained steadfast,” Gilani said.
“This is because trade between our countries is to our best advantage. Let me add here that Pakistan’s closest friend and strategic partner, China, is also in favour of our normalization of relations with India,” Gilani said.
Welcoming India’s announcement about allowing foreign direct investments from Pakistan, he said his government was now awaiting “some practical steps” by New Delhi to remove non-tariff barriers that hamper Pakistani exports to the Indian market.
PAK SHOULD UNILATERALLY ABOLISH VISA REGIME: SHARIF
Meanwhile, main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has said that Pakistan should unilaterally abolish the visa regime with India immediately as people-to-people contacts can accelerate the bilateral peace process.
Sharif urged the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to “step forward and take the initiative of abolishing the visa regime” to facilitate the people of both countries.
He made the remarks during the interactive session with Indian trade delegation at his residence in Lahore last night.
“Pakistan should move ahead with the decision of abolishing the visa regime unilaterally even if India hesitates to reciprocate the initiative at this point in time. I believe India will be forced to follow suit once Pakistan breaks this barrier. In my opinion, this step can go miles in bringing these two nuclear powers closer,” Sharif said.
Sharif, who has often spoken about the need to ease visa regulations between India and Pakistan, further highlighted the importance of ending hostilities between the two countries.
He expressed his belief that peace initiatives would create “great prospects for mutual prosperity” and urged the Pakistan government to open up its trade policy and relax rules wherever possible.
He further said it was “high time” to seek the resolution of all bilateral issues: “We have assured the government of (the PML-N’s) complete support in this regard. However, it seems, the government is not doing enough,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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