vast expansion of economic if not political cooperation, which has fundamentally shifted mindsets on both sides of the strait.
Today, Taiwanese companies employ millions of Chinese, while a recent influx of Chinese tourists has, in part, helped Taiwan achieve a soft landing in the wake of the global economic downturn. To the east of India, the 10 countries that comprise the ASEAN bloc are forging ahead with plans that will see them inaugurate a free trade area in 2015. Already, trade within ASEAN nations accounts for 25% of all trade, compared to only 5% within the SAARC bloc.
History cannot and should not be forgotten overnight, but I have every confidence that relations between India and Pakistan have reached an inflection point that will see an enabling environment for greater trade and mutual economic growth. The advent of de facto free trade at the end of the year marks an important step towards facilitating the movement of goods and services between two important markets.
Nevertheless, facilitating the movement of people must remain an equal priority if we are to shift mindsets as well as goods. At my organization’s Annual Meeting in Davos each year, formal and informal interactions between Indian and Pakistani participants abound. Simultaneously, the thought leaders of our Global Agenda Councils on India and Pakistan have committed over the past year to support student exchanges and internships between the two countries.
These are small steps, but we believe that by fostering greater human contact between Indians and Pakistanis, and demonstrating we are not aliens but in fact have a lot in common, we are helping to build trust.
We will build on these ideas further at the World Economic Forum on India this week in Gurgaon. While I believe the right steps are now being made to re-set India on a path of high economic growth, the dividend – social, economic, cultural and political – of trust and dialogue transcending suspicion and difference will be even greater still.
By Sushant Palakurthi Rao, Senior Director, Head of Asia, World Economic Forum
Note: Views expressed by the author are his own and not those of expressindia.com.