Pakistan Frees Indian Fishermen Ahead Of Weekend Trade Meeting

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By Palash R. Ghosh | April 14, 2012 2:39 AM EST

Pakistan has released a group of 25 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture, ahead of a meeting this weekend of the trade ministers from the two South Asian nuclear giants.

Pakistan and India typically arrest hundreds of the other country’s fishermen every year on charges of having violated respective territorial waters. BBC also reported that other prisoners (including detained fishermen) languishing in prisons in both nations will be released in the coming days and weeks,

But these countries have much bigger fish to fry than some wayward fishermen.

Following last week’s visit to India by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Islamabad and New Delhi are seeking to broaden trade relations, despite a number of fractious issues that divide the two countries – including the endless dispute over Kashmir, Pakistan’s alleged sponsorship and protection of Islamic terrorists and the ongoing fallout from the 2008 attacks in Mumbai (the incident that shattered previous rounds of peace talks).

Still, some hopeful changes have already occurred, including Pakistan’s lifting of trade restrictions on India; and an expanded list of goods that Pakistan will buy from its neighbor and erstwhile enemy.

According to the South Asian News Agency, Pakistan now can import almost 6,000 items from India, up from a prior level of just under 2,000.

Also, India’s minister of trade Anand Sharma said on Friday that India will permit foreign direct investment from Pakistan.

"India has taken an in-principle decision, as a part of the process to deepen our economic engagement, to allow foreign direct investments from Pakistan in India," Sharma said at a news conference in New Delhi. "Procedural requirements (for FDI from Pakistan) are underway"

Sharma also said that banks from both nations would be able to do business with each other.

Last year, Zardari said he would seek to grant India most favored nation status, a step that could unleash business deals and money flows between the two nations.

This weekend, the trade ministers of each country (Sharma and his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim) will hold a ceremony at the village of Wagah – which is half in India, half in Pakistan – to open a trade terminal. Wagah is the only border crossing between the two nations.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) an Indian trade group, said that further opening the border crossing at Wagah will generate bilateral trade of $8 billion annually within two years, up from the current level of $2.6 billion.

“This is a very welcome step towards reduction of barriers to bilateral trade,” said ASSOCHAM.

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