ACADEMICS hope technology could provide a breakthrough in the decades-long hostilities between India and Pakistan.

The University of Sussex is behind TradeSift, a tool which aims to improve trade and diplomacy between countries by working out what will sell well abroad.

Researchers are working with diplomats from the emerging economies of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, to improve dialogue between the regional neighbours.

Pakistan’s minister of commerce, Khalid Hanif, is currently experimenting with TradeSift while studying law at the University of Sussex.

He believes the software could be the beginning of a solution which could improve diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan because trade brings prosperity. Mr Hanif said: “When you have money in enemy territory, then you will not fight.”

Before the Indian-Pakistan war of 1965, 56% of imports to Pakistan came from India and there were 11 trade routes. Now there is only one trade route and the countries only trade through intermediary nations.

In November a team from the university held training workshops in Sri Lanka attended by officials from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and businessmen from India.

These workshops explored the scope for expanding trade links between the three countries.

Participants used TradeSift to examine issues such as the degree of similarity of the trade patterns among the three partners, and the emergence of intra-industry trade flows. The analysis found that there were several opportunities for trade expansion between the countries.

Peter Holmes, reader in economics at University of Sussex, said: “The meeting was notable for the enthusiastic commitment of the Pakistan trade officials attending to explore every available opportunity for dialogue with India.

“This was a view that was reciprocated by the Indian private sector representatives who were present.”

Dr Holmes said that the aim of TradeSift workshops was to get selected attendees together in “track two talks” before they end up meeting across the negotiating table.

The software was developed following a request in 2004 from the Department of International Development (DFID) for Sussex to find a method of evaluating regional trading agreements without complicated mathematics and modelling.