Lahore: India`s Punjab can supply electricity to the Pakistan province of Punjab by 2013 as it will have surplus power by then, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Tuesday.
"By 2013, the Indian Punjab will have surplus electricity and it will be more than willing to export it to Pakistan. A major portion of electricity is being produced through coal while more than 500 MW is being generated from renewable sources like biomass, wheat-straw and rice-straw," said Badal, who is currently on a visit to Lahore.
Interacting with businessmen at the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Badal said another 500 MW of electricity generated by solar power would be added to India`s national grid in the next five years.
He also endorsed suggestions from Pakistani businessmen for setting up consulates in the Indian city of Amritsar and Lahore, the capital of Pakistani Punjab.
Both cities immediately require consulates of the two countries to process visa applications because it is cumbersome for residents of both sides of Punjab to travel to their national capitals to apply for visas, he said.
Badal said trade between India and Pakistan could be increased from the current level of USD two billion to USD 10 billion in the shortest possible time if both sides take "sector-specific measures".
Elaborating this point, he said the distance between Lahore and Amritsar can be covered in only 35 minutes while goods coming through a third country cost 10 times more than their price in direct trade.
"India is one of the biggest economies in the region and offers innumerable opportunities to Pakistani businessmen. The businessmen must not feel any threat from the entrepreneurship of Indians. Rather they should work out a strategy to be competitive. Indian Punjab has a big consumer market that should be captured by Pakistani businessmen," Badal argued.
Badal said the banking system between the two countries should be upgraded and student exchange programme should be activated for the larger benefit of the people.
LCCI president Farooq Iftikhar said non-tariff barriers faced by Pakistani exporters were creating problems.
"At present, almost equal quantum of trade is going on between Pakistan and India from third destinations like Dubai and Colombo. Some kinds of bans are also coming in the way. It increases the cost in the form of freight, taxes and loss of time," he said.
Iftikhar called for special relaxations to increase trade.
"There are many possibilities which can lead our economies to supplement each other for growth. We need to identify areas of economic cooperation. Joint ventures, outsourcing and sharing of technology will further pave the way for trade expansion," he said.
He further said a flexible visa regime is the need of the hour. The business community on both sides has to wait for several days to obtain visas.