Pitching for peace and stability in the region, Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma on Tuesday said there was no other way forward for India and Pakistan except for building an atmosphere of trust and confidence to overcome issues that tend to hold back the region which has a huge economic potential.

Speaking on the sidelines of the CII organised Global Partnership Summit-2013, Mr. Sharma said India and its leadership were of the considered view that there was no alternative than strengthening of ties between India and Pakistan in order to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. “This is the only way for enduring peace and stability. And for that the only way is the economic partnership and engagement between the businesses of and governments of the two nations,” he remarked.

Mr. Sharma said that India has already taken some concrete steps including allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) from Pakistan and opening of bank branches there. “We have had a small but significant participation from Pakistan. Their Trade Minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim could not make it to this summit due to some internal compulsions and he had conveyed this to me personally. But we had a number of friends from Pakistan here and I would like to remind them what we discussed in last February, where we had agreed not to allow anything to come in the way which actually holds this region back and India stands by that commitment,’’ Mr. Sharma said.

Meanwhile, officials in the Commerce Ministry said Pakistan has conveyed to India its decision to delay the grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India along with abolition of a negative trade list regime for a short period of time due to reservations expressed by several industries in Pakistan. Mr. Fahim has reportedly written to Mr. Sharma informing him about the decision to delay the grant of MFN and phasing out of the negative list and has listed out the reasons for the delay. “I talked to the Indian Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma on the issue and he understands the issue and agreed to the delay for a short time,’’ Mr. Fahim has been quoted stating by the Pakistan media.

In his communication, Mr. Fahim has stated that Pakistan was working out some measures needed to address the concerns of the domestic industries and then the matter would be taken to the Cabinet for a final decision.

Pakistan had earlier said it would phase out the negative list regime by December 31, paving the way for MFN-status to be granted by the New Year. The negative list allows commerce in all but 1209 items. Islamabad had earlier missed another deadline for removing restrictions on trade through the land route before end of October, 2012.

During talks held in Islamabad in September last year, the two sides had agreed that Pakistan would remove all restrictions on trade by the Wagah-Attari land route before the end of October. Following this, the Indian side would have brought down its SAFTA sensitive list by 30 per cent before December while keeping in view Pakistan’s export interests.

Prominent Pakistan businessman, Amin Hashwani, Director, Hashwani group of companies, who is leading the small Pakistan delegation here, stressed on the role of the civil society in cementing the regional partnership. ``Civil society is pushing for integration of the societies and is also facilitating the dialogue for enduring peace and prosperity,’’ he remarked.

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