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Sukhbir’s five-day Lahore visit claimed to be historic

Commerce, trade, sports and culture were the main topics discussed by the leaders from the two countries.

Snehil Sinha  Chandigarh | 10th Nov 2012

Sukhbir Singh Badal at the Gurdwara Dhera Sahib in Lahore.

he 45 member delegation led by Punjab deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Badal, returned from Pakistan after his five-day trip on Friday.

Terming the entire trip to be historic, Badal said that there were many successful agreements made between his team and that of Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif in relation with commerce, trade, sports and culture. "There is great potential in trade between the two nations in this region and it is up to the governments of both the countries now to take these discussions forward which will bring immense economic benefits," he said.

Badal proposed setting up of a joint Industrial zone in the region and turning Wagah into a full scale port. This would facilitate the increased traffic due to more trade relations between the two countries. "The joint working committee set up to promote trade and commerce will comprise of ten members from both the Punjabs and will work out a blueprint for increasing industrial development in the region", he added.

Badal also discussed setting up of visa consulates at Lahore and Amritsar to benefit traders and pilgrims. Opening a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib by the Pakistan government and handing over the upkeep of sikh shrines in Pakistan to Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) was also a discussion area.

Apart from trade and commerce, medical tourism and student exchange programmes were also discussed. A major emphasis area was that of sports. It was decided during this visit to start a bi-annual Punjab cup in the region for cricket, hockey and wrestling. Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal also invited Pakistan Punjab CM, Shahbaz Sharif to be the chief guest at the Kabaddi world cup final in Ludhiana this December. During his trip, Badal had attended the Asia Kabaddi Cup final in Lahore and awarded the winning Pakistan team.

During the event on 6 November, Badal had said, "In the last five years 14 stadiums at the cost of Rs 214 cr were built in Punjab and most modern sports infrastructure provided to the players". He said that he was focusing on the traditional games of Kabaddi, Hockey and Football as these games were least expensive games and were quite popular amongst the village youth. He said that by channelizing the energy of youth in the games, we can distract them from the drug addiction.

Underlining the need for mutual exchange program of expert coaches between two Punjabs, Badal said that Eastern and Western Punjab should collectively work out an exchange program of sharing expert coaches and providing services of such coaches to each other to get best talent from the rural belts.

On the same day, trade and commerce were also discussed by the delegates from both the countries. Speaking on the occasion, badal also offered the total cooperation of Punjab in giving technical support to Eastern Punjab in power and renewable energy besides providing latest research inputs in Agriculture sector.

He said that Punjab has also developed a new technology to generate hydro power from low falls and it could be quite useful to Eastern Punjab. "If the Government of India approves then our state, which is going to become Power surplus next year, could export power to Pakistan", he added. Talking about agricultural exports he mentioned that there was lot of potential in boosting potato and vegetable export to Pakistan.

Stressing upon the need for bilateral talks to solve issues between both countries, Eastern Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had said that trade between India and Pakistan was a meager $1.5 billon.

He added that it was unnecessary to adopt the circuitous route of Mumbai-Karachi that raises the input price due to extra carriage cost when there can be direct trade through the Wagah border.

Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka said that the Punjab Government has taken novel initiatives in strengthening primary education besides improving computer literacy amongst the students. Industry and Technical Education Minister, Anil Joshi, while speaking about Industrial Policy to attract Rs one lakh cr investment in Punjab said that Technical Education Department was fully geared up to provide trained human resource backup to upcoming industry in the state.

Wednesday was dedicated to discussions on the need to explore joint ventures in the textile sector. Speaking at a function organized by all Pakistan Textile Manufacturer's Association Badal said, "Textile Industry is quite developed in Pakistan as it constituted more than 70% of the country's exports of the country and we in Punjab are actively pursuing the initiative of Textile Park in Malwa region".

On Thursday, the delegation led by Sukhbir Badal paid obeisance at Gurdwara Dhera Sahib in Lahore, the martyrdom place of fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji. During the evening he made a spontaneous visit to the famous Food Street

of Lahore.

Badal appreciated the ethnic look maintained by Lahore City and asked Deputy Commissioner Amritsar, Rajat Aggarwal, who was part of the delegation, to conceptualize a similar food street for Amritsar and put up the proposal for the same.

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