India-specific trade exhibition draws huge crowd in Pak

India-specific trade exhibition draws huge crowd in Pak

The largest ever India-specific trade exhibition in Pakistan attracted over 15,000 visitors on its first day and Indian traders say they have been surprised and impressed by the strong response from the Pakistani public.

"We were overwhelmed by the response of the public. Over 15,000 people coming to The India Show on the first day was just amazing," said Jasmeet Singh, one of the nearly 200 Indian traders who are in Lahore to showcase their products as part of an initiative by India and Pakistan to normalise bilateral trade.

Singh told PTI that 110 stalls at the three-day exhibition – which began yesterday – were showcasing products as diverse as jewellery, cosmetics, chemicals, textiles and apparel, information technology, auto parts, handicrafts, engineering goods, healthcare, tourism and commodities like tea, coffee and spices.

"We were not expecting that such a strong response. I think this will go a long way to bolster trade relations between India and Pakistan," Singh said.

Some of the largest crowds were seen at stalls displaying jewellery and saris, with dozens of women thronging them.

"The jewellery is of fine quality but expensive too," said Kiran Jawad who came to the exhibition with her husband and three daughters.

Jawad said the exhibition provided the people of Lahore an opportunity to see Indian products and interact with Indians.

Stalls displaying Indian spices too attracted a good number of people, who suggested that the products should be available in Pakistan.

"The Indian spices, jewellery and clothes, especially saris, are very popular here and it will be good if we can buy them here," said Qamar Rana, a chartered accountant.

He said The India Show was a good initiative and people were enjoying visiting the exhibition.

"We hope this exhibition leads to regular trade between the two countries," Rana said.

Many visitors were seen making a beeline for the stall of Apollo Hospital, which is known to Pakistanis for its quality healthcare services.

"Our people can avail of better healthcare facilities, such as the treatment of children with holes in their heart, in the neighbouring country. I think Pakistani hospitals should consider having a formal tie-up with facilities like Apollo Hospital," Nahid Khan, a visitor at the exhibition, suggested.

India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan via the Wagah land border tomorrow with a big trade delegation.

During his three-day visit, Sharma will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim to normalise trade relations and interact with businessmen in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Sharma will also participate in the closing ceremony of The India Show, which was inaugurated yesterday by Fahim.

Jasmeet Singh, who is a deputy director with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said The India Show had provided traders a valuable opportunity to assess the potential market for their products in Pakistan.

Speaking at the inauguration of the event yesterday, Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal said India and Pakistan had the potential to boost bilateral trade to 15 billion dollars a year.

Indian Commerce Minister Sharma's visit is being billed as an opportunity to help break barriers that have hampered trade between the two largest South Asian economies.

The visit is a sequel to Commerce Secretary-level talks that resumed in April last year after a suspension of over three year following the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.

The Commerce Secretary-level talks have already led to the approval of a several steps by both countries to dismantle hurdles in the way of increasing official trade to six billion dollars by 2014.

Direct trade between India and Pakistan constitutes less than one per cent of their respective global trade.

India exported goods worth 2.33 billion dollars to Pakistan last year while its imports were a mere 330 million dollars.