Indo-Pak trade normalization could be a game-changer: Biswal

Normalisation of trade relationship between India and Pakistan could be a game changer in regional connectivity and integration, Obama Administration's point person for South and Central Asia has said.

"Clearly one of the biggest obstacles to regional connectivity is India and Pakistan. Trade normalisation between these two historic rivals could be a game-changer," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

"We have been encouraged by positive signs from Islamabad and New Delhi that things may be moving in the right direction. We are hopeful that we will see strong leadership from both governments following India's election," she said.

Responding to a question from Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, Biswal said "I think that there is increasing recognition in both countries that for both economies to grow, for both countries to achieve their goals and aspirations, that they need to be able to trade with each other.

And we're hopeful that that recognition will result in some concrete actions in the coming weeks and months as the election in India concludes and a new government comes into place," she said.

In her testimony, Biswal said despite many challenges, including weak regional architecture, high poverty rates and limited regional infrastructure, they can envision a future where Asian economies are connected through trade and transit from Central Asia to South Asia to Southeast Asia and beyond.

"The administration has placed a strategic bet on regional economic connectivity through our New Silk Road and Indo-Pacific economic corridor initiatives. We know that peace and stability are much more likely to be sustained when the countries of the region are tied together in trade and when their economies and their people are invested in each other," she said.

"On the eastern front of South Asia, we see real opportunity to connect South and Southeast Asia in light of the historic transition undergoing in Burma. And the improvement of relations between India and Bangladesh and the growing ties between India and its ASEAN counterparts allow for more efficient, integrated and open markets across the region," Biswal said.

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