Exploratory talks for trade in petroleum products between oil companies of India and Pakistan concluded here on Tuesday with the latter showing a keen interest in import of furnace oil and diesel. The two-day-long meeting was described by both sides as an attempt to survey the market for India and understand the requirements of Pakistan.

Addressing the delegation of representatives from leading oil companies of India including Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum, Essar Oil and Reliance Industries, Petroleum Minister Asim Hussain said the potential for trade in petroleum products was immense.

Essentially the group from India was a business delegation with only one officer from the Petroleum Ministry accompanying it. The two sides agreed to return to the negotiating table under the framework of the expert group to discuss the modalities of trade. New Delhi has in the past offered its refining capacities — available along the border — to Islamabad.

During this week's talks, the two sides sought to identify the products that can be traded, volumes, supply sources and transportation mechanism. Pakistan is interested in furnace oil for its power plants as the electricity shortfall has resulted in a manufacturing slow down.

The two countries have been discussing trade in petroleum products since last April when the commerce secretaries met here under the framework of the resumed composite dialogue. The two sides decided to set up a group of experts to work out how to initiate and substantially expand trade in all types of petroleum products. On the table is also the possibility of cross-border pipelines and use of the road/rail route including the Munabao-Khokrapar route for trade in petro products.

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