Formal trade between India and Pakistan was estimated at $2.7 billion in 2010-11. But routed through third countries like the UAE, this trade is estimated at $10 billion. The balance is also heavily in favour of India with its exports at $2.3 billion. The two countries target to increase formal trade to over $6 billion by 2014.

Trade and commercial establishments on either side now expressed satisfaction that things are moving in the right direction, particularly so after Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma led the largest ever business delegation to Pakistan in February. Sharma was, in fact, the first Indian trade minister to visit Pakistan in over three decades and was accompanied by the chief executives of over 100 companies, who went to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Soon after, the Pakistan government notified the much-awaited negative list for trade with India, substantially increasing the number of items that can be imported from or exported to the neighbouring country. Now over 7,000 items can be traded between the two countries. Earlier, Pakistan used to limit its imports from India to less than 2,000 items, by putting them under a positive list.

Now Pakistan has identified a list of some 1,200 items which it does not want to import from India. It means apart of the items listed in the negative list, everything can be traded between the two countries. Pakistan has also agreed to remove the negative list by the end of 2012, paving the way for granting the much-awaited most-favoured nation status to India.

Keeping the momentum going, Pakistan Trade Minister Mohammad Amin Fahim  also visited New Delhi to meet with Minister Sharma, even as Delhi played host to a an exhibition  in which over 100 Pakistani lifestyle firms participated.

This article was originally published in 'The Stitch Times', May, 2012.