Buoyed by her India visit, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday was hopeful of getting the time-bound Pakistan-specific European Union (EU) package that New Delhi has been blocking for nearly a year now.
Briefing journalists here along with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, she said that after the bilateral visit to India, Pakistan was hopeful of getting that package. Following last year's devastating floods, the EU had offered trade concessions for a year to help Pakistan's textile industry tide over the difficulties caused by the deluge.
India's contention has been that there is no guarantee the waiver will benefit the flood-affectees. Also, it would set a precedent as EU has never in the past made such a concession for a natural disaster. Though India, Bangladesh and Peru are blocking this in the WTO Committee, Pakistan believes that if New Delhi withdraws its opposition, the other two countries will come around.
Making an oblique reference to India, Mr. Sikorski said the EU had offered the trade concession to Pakistan as the best possible deal for the situation facing the country, but it needed consensus within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “One of your neighbours has objections,” he said; adding that Poland would continue with its efforts to “unblock that which is blocked at [the] WTO.”
Poland has just taken on the rotational presidency of the EU, and Mr. Sikorski is here both as a representative of his country and on behalf of the Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton.
Mr. Sikorski – who had visited India last month – was appreciative of Pakistan's efforts to normalise relations with its neighbours. Stating that it is particularly difficult to do so when there is a history, he cited Poland's own difficulties with its neighbours.
The first ever Polish Foreign Minister to visit Pakistan, Mr. Sikorski was particularly appreciative of Pakistan's role in the collapse of the Soviet Union that helped free Poland. “Poland is thankful to Pakistan for what it did then by siding with the free world. You have paid a heavy price for it and we feel your pain.”
Mr. Sikorski – who met President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani – said the Pakistani leadership had made it clear that they do not want charity but market access.