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Decisions to improve ties with India in coming weeks: Pak
Pakistan has already missed a December 31 deadline last year to end a negative list regime for trade and give MFN-status to India.
New Delhi: Underlining the importance of normalisation of trade with India, Pakistan on Thursday said more decisions will be taken in "coming weeks and months" to improve trade ties but did not say when it will grant the much delayed Most Favoured National (MFN) status. "We are in a way satisfied (about trade with India). Economic, trade cooperation track has seen a lot of meetings between the two sides which has been very positive and (in) coming weeks and months there will be further better decision taken," Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir said at an Assocham conference in New Delhi.
Bashir, however, refused to be drawn into the issue of grant of MFN status or non-discriminatory trading status to India. India had in 1996 granted MFN status on Pakistan but Islamabad hasn't reciprocated the move till now. It also missed the December 31, 2012 deadline for phasing out the negative list regime for trade with India.
However, he said the two countries must address the issues on the ground before such a decision was taken. "In-principle our take is that we want trade normalisation and there is a road map for that. We are working on that road map and I hope that Pakistan government will take it forward with a positive intent. There is a need to address the issues on the ground. The practical difficulties need to be addressed," he said.
Citing the example of the Visa Agreement that was signed between India and its Eastern neighbour, Bashir said, "There have been big promises, the Visa agreement was signed, but what is the net result? What's the fun when agreement signed, but not implemented."
Pointing out that Indian exports to Pakistan were much more despite the country not getting MFN status from Pakistan, Bashir, however, said both countries would benefit once this decision is taken. "If you look at the trade figures today, they indicate that despite not giving an MFN status, Indian exports are more than as compared to Pakistani exports to India. If such is the case without MFN, I feel both countries will benefit after it's given," Bashir said.
Insisting that India was "not an election issue in Pakistan", the Pakistani High Commissioner hoped the two countries would not allow their domestic atmosphere to cast a shadow on their relations. Pakistan has already missed a December 31 deadline last year to end a negative list regime for trade and give MFN-status to India. Since then, several federal ministers have said the move to grant MFN-status had been delayed so that the government could hold consultations with industries that have expressed their reservations about the move.
The neighbours have taken several steps to normalise trade relations since resuming peace process in 2011 after a gap of over 2 years in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks. During recent talks, the two sides agreed to increase bilateral trade from the current level of about $ 2 billion to $ 6 billion by 2014.