A PAKISTANI delegation has confirmed its participation in the 11th edition of the Punjab International Trade Expo (PITEX) in Amritsar along with participants of other SAARC countries. “We have confirmation that 54 Pakistani traders will participate in the PITEX,” said Dr Parveen Rathee, regional director of PHD (Progress Harmony Development) chamber that is organising the event. Pakistani participation in the annual PITEX has been a regular feature of the event over the last 10 years.
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This year, it will be held from December 8 to 12 amid a spike in tension following the Uri attack and the Indian “surgical strike” across the LoC, with Nagrota attack being the latest.
Immediately after the attack on the Uri brigade headquarters, Pakistani delegations either stayed away or their participation was cancelled at trade events in Delhi and Chandigarh.
PITEX will come close on the heels of the 6th ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia Conference which was held in this city.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister, were present together at the international conference in which over 40 countries took part. It was the first official delegation from Pakistan to visit India in months, but an anticipated India-Pakistan pull-aside did not happen. Earlier, India had refused to participate in the SAARC summit in Islamabad, leading to the cancellation of the event. But, trade between India and Pakistan has continued despite the escalation at the Line of Control spilling over into several aspects of the bilateral relationship.
“All SAARC countries participate in PITEX. Pakistan will also participate with the other member countries,” said Rathee, stating that there has been nothing so far to suggest that Pakistani traders will not take part this year. “The response from Pakistan traders is the same as it was in previous years,” he added.
The Pak delegates are expected to get their visas from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. “We have communicated to Pakistani traders that they have been cleared to approach the embassy for completion of visa formalities. The papers will be processed in one or two days,” said an official.
An Indian trader said as India-Pakistan trade across the Attari-Wagah border has continued without interruption since the Uri attack, there was no reason why a trade delegation should not visit India.
“Trade between India and Pakistan on Attari-Wagah border has not stopped for even one day after the Uri attack. So, there is nothing unusual if Pakistani traders come and participate at the PITEX. It is not the first time that there is tension between both countries. Show must go on,” said an Indian trader dealing in import-export with Pakistan.