Adam Thomson

British High Commissioner to Pakistan

Part of UK in Pakistan

27th May 2010 Islamabad, Pakistan

The sky’s the limit

Whatever else Pakistanis may think about India, the evidence of economic growth there is hard to deny. Last week I visted Gurgaon, the new city outside New Delhi. It is mushrooming. Twelve years ago, when I last took a look, it practically wasn’t there. Now it has all the shopping malls, office blocks and building sites any suburban American city could dream of. And I drove there from Delhi on a six lane toll road. Things have changed.

There are all sorts of implications for Pakistan. If India can grow its economy and its middle class so fast, surely Pakistan can too? Pakistan’s average GDP growth each year since 1951 has been 5%. The senior Pakistani economists I have heard on the subject don’t think that’s quite enough to keep pace with Pakistan’s fast growing population I have visited all the provincial capitals and have yet to see anything like Gurgaon. India is aiming to grow at nine or ten percent each year. I would love to see the same level of ambition take root here in Pakistan. I am often told that Pakistan is a more liberal place in which to do business. So what’s holding it back?

It’s obviously only something Islamabad and New Delhi alone can decide but one major step – economically as well as politically – would be for the two countries to open up to each other instead of seeing their limited trade go circuitously, expensively and unofficially via the Gulf. Pakistani and Indian companies would both gain from access to the large neighbouring market.

This was the theme of a conference in New Delhi last week attended by senior Pakistanis and Indians and sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Aman ki Asha media campaign. India’s Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee announced "The sky’s the limit" to the economic potential of better trade relations between the two countries. I know that’s easier said than done. But friends of both countries would like to see it happen soon.