A three-day international conference was organised by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh in New Delhi in November 2008. A number of papers were presented by scholars, entrepreneurs, diplomat and administrators from South Asia.
The focus of the conference was on strengthening India’s relations with Pakistan. The first phase of the study was started in 2001 on the theme of ‘conflict resolutions’ and it substantially contributed to the holding of free and fair elections in Jammu & Kashmir. Subsequently, a publication titled India-Bangladesh: Strengthening the Partnership was brought out.
The second phase concentrated on organising meetings between farmers and small and medium entrepreneurs of Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab. This exercise provided an opportunity to share information, knowledge and experience, resulting in the signing of the memorandum of understanding between entrepreneurs and members of the farming community in developing a trade relationship between the two countries.
Sukhjit Singh Bhatti made a presentation on the possibilities of potato seed exports from the Indian Punjab. He highlighted the fact that India and Pakistan share the same seasonal plant, the potato seed, and the Indian Punjab is ideally located to supply potato seeds up to US dollars 1200 per ton cheaper to Pakistan than sourced from Europe. Also the Punjab seed completely answers the phyto-sanitary requirements of Pakistan.
K.S. Wilkhu presented India’s case for the export of fully built or semi-built buses and the exchange of technology to manufacture low-cost buses.
A.M. Sawhney made a case for the export of tractors from India to SAARC countries
Paramjit Sahai made a detailed presentation on the two Punjab’s centre, its purpose, vision, programmes and activities carried out, outcomes of various activities, the action programme and future approach for building bridges between people in India and Pakistan.
In an interactive session on trade and investment, Dr Kamal Monnoo endorsed the argument that the efforts for regionalisation should strengthen the nations’ desire for globalisation. He emphasised that a significant contribution for SAARC to be globally competitive may be made my making Pakistan and India shift their mindsets towards cooperation in bilateral trade and investment-related issues.
Dr Vijay Katti presented an all-inclusive account of intra-regional versus extra-regional trade, concluding that lack of economic integration in the South Asian region due to economic complementarities, vast differences in the size of economies, and existence of non-tariff barriers have an edge on the expansion of intra-regional trade.
Prof. Ranjit Singh Ghuman and Dr D.K. Madaan felt that the formation of SAPTA did not significantly affect the member countries as far as their export performance was concerned but the post-SAPTA period had shown a considerable rise in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows. They concluded that more trade and FDI could be generated by easing out politico-economic environment and strengthening of bilateral and multilateral ties within the SAARC.
Prof. Lok Raj Baral presented a detailed analysis of the practice of democracy in the South Asian countries. He realises that ‘real democracy’ could have been achieved by empowering the people.
Dr Syeda Hameed introduced ‘women’ as agents of ‘change’.
Prof. I.N. Mukherjee talked of the genesis and evolution of SAARC, achievements made, constraints faced and possible solutions thereof.
Dr Humayun Khan explained the relationship between regional cooperation in SAARC and bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.
In contrast to the discussions on identifying bottlenecks and problems in trade relations of India and Pakistan, a flavour of positivism was introduced by Dr Neeta Gaur and Dr Vijay Laxmi.
Apart from discussing the scope for cooperative development, peace and security in South Asian through trade and investment, connectivity and infrastructural linkages, the deliberations delved on possible areas of cooperation and explored the instrumentalities for a better and secure economic future.
(Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Sector 19-A Madhya Marg, Chandigarh-160019.)