Deteriorating relationship between the neighbours

Kohinoor Mandal

The proposed trip has already received the necessary political clearance from the Union Government but the clearance came before the Mumbai bomb blasts.

Kolkata, July 16

Following the bomb blasts in Mumbai on July 11, the scheduled visit to Pakistan by a tea trade delegation comprising some of the country's leading tea industrialists next week has become uncertain.

The 15-16 member delegation, which is to be led by Mr Basudeb Banerjee, Chairman of the Tea Board, is scheduled to leave for Pakistan next Saturday.

The team would be visiting Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar.

Clearance received

The proposed trip has already received the necessary political clearance from the Union Government but the clearance came before the Mumbai bomb blasts.

Though there is no apparent need for another clearance, still some sections of the industry doubt that the trip might be cancelled because of the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan.

The delegation was initially scheduled to leave for Pakistan on July 15 but it was postponed by a week as all the members have not got their visas and the Government was duly informed about it.

Change in scenario

Talking to

Business Line

, Mr Basudeb Banerjee said that it is too early to come to any conclusion on the fate of the trip. He, however, agreed that the situation has changed since last Tuesday.

"I really do not know what would happen. The Mumbai blast took place on Tuesday and we are going to Pakistan next Saturday.

"If the Government wants to stop us it can and there is also time left", Mr Banerjee said.

He also presumed that there should not be any problem as it is a trade delegation comprising tea industrialists but headed by him, a Government official.

"It may so happen that the Government might ask me not to go with the delegation. That is just a possibility", he said. Apart from the Tea Board, representatives from Indian Tea Association (ITA), United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) and Indian Merchant Tea Exporters Federation (IMTEF) are also in the delegation.

Industry optimistic

The proposed trip is actually in reciprocation to a visit by made a Pakistan tea trade delegation in April this year. Pakistan, which consumes around 140 million kg of CTC tea, has been targeted by the Tea Board as a major export destination.

Indian tea industry appeared quite optimistic and upbeat on the proposed trip. Senior members of ITA said that there is no reason for the Union Government to cancel the trip, as it would balance the aggressive stance it has taken against Pakistan after the blasts.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 17, 2006)
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