Here's a small video clip of Mani Shankar's interview.
Mani Shankar Aiyar is a known member of Indian Parliament. He has also served as Indian counsel in Karachi for three years in early 90s. I was fortunate to talk to him on his recent visit to Pakistan. He came to Pakistan with 15 other Indian Parliamentarians including , film star turned politician, Shaturgan Sinha. This was the third round of Parliamentary dialogue between Parliamentarians from both India and Pakistan. For this session, the main topic of discussion was how to improve trade between the two countries. Parliamentarians from both countries have devised a set of recommendations, which they will present to their respective governments.
The current trade volume between Pakistan and India is roughly 2 billion dollars annually, this is a very low figure. According to many financial experts, the unregistered trade between India and Pakistan, through Dubai and through smuggling of goods, is approximately 10 billion dollars. There is no doubt, that with more relaxed policies, trade volume between two countries can increase significantly. With more trade, people on both side of the border will eventually prosper. It is interesting to note that at the time of partition in 1947, more than 70 percent of Pakistan's trade was with India and 63 percent of India's trade was with Pakistan. But this trend couldn't continue for long. And the trade between the countries came to a complete halt after the 1965 war. The trade remain suspended until the bilateral trade agreement was signed between the two countries in 1975 for only a period of three years. Many positive steps have been taken in recent history to improve this very complicated relationship, but no significant results were seen
However, seasoned Indian politician Mani Shankar, believes that the relationship between Pakistan and India will strengthen. While talking to me he emphasized that trade helps build relationships and good relationships help getting more business opportunities. Shankar said that government from both sides have full backing of their nations. People from both India and Pakistan and especially the business communities want better relations. The business community overall in Pakistan is also in favor of granting MFN status to India. They believe that this would open a market of more than 1 billion people for Pakistan. Mani Shankar very optimistically closed the conversation saying that he along with other Indian parliamentarians will give the set of recommendations to Indian Commerce Minister, who will soon visit Pakistan. And he expects that the minister will make some important announcement when he comes to Pakistan.