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  Indians and Pakistanis look to gemstones to ease tension between two countries

July 6, 2012

Could it be that the gemstone industry will do for India and Pakistan what ping pong famously did for China and the United States 40 years ago? Whatever the case, peace overtures between sometimes belligerent nations are sometimes more effectively expressed at the non-governmental level, and some are expressing similar sentiments in respect to cross-border contacts between the Indian and Pakistani gem and jewelry sectors.

In June a delegation of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India traveled to Pakistan on an official visit. When they met with their Pakistani counterparts they invited them to attend the India International Jewelry Show in Mumbai in August.

"It was a dream come true," said Sanjay Kothari, vice chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, who led the delegation to the Pakistan International Gems & Jewellery Exhibition in Karachi. "We are overwhelmed by the amount of hospitality, warmth and friendship they have shown us."

Interestingly, there already exists a trickle of trade between the Indian and Pakistani industries, with India exporting gem and jewelry worth $17.69 million to Pakistan and importing materials worth $310,000 during the 12-month period ending March 31. But there is very little direct trade, with most of it taking place via Dubai.

"We are also very excited, both the countries have various opportunities, which need to be explored," said Khalid Aziz, general manager at Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Co.

India accounts for about 95 percent of the global trade in cut and polished diamonds and is a significant exporter of gold jewelry. The country already exports gold and diamond jewelry to other neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Trade with Pakistan is beginning to open only now.

During the visit a seven-point memorandum was signed, where a key point was the direct import of gemstones from Pakistan into India. Pakistan is a prolific producer of colored gemstones, including peridot, aquamarine, topaz, ruby, emerald, sphene, tourmaline, quartz, and rare-earth minerals such as bastnaesite and xenotime.

"The gems and jewelry industry has been ignored by successive governments, despite the revenue generating capacity of the industry. More than 500,000 people are associated with the gems and jewelry industry in Pakistan and the country enjoys a competitive edge in the colored stones sector, given the natural minerals available," said Senator Semeen Siddiqui, chairperson of Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development.

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