Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma on Tuesday described the Indo-Pak trade talks beginning in Islamabad on Wednesday as a ``positive development’’ and indicated steps to upgrade the economic engagement between the nations.

Commerce Secretary, Rahul Khullar has already reached Pakistan on Tuesday for talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Zafar Mehmood. New Delhi is looking the possibility of working out some ``doable’economic steps that would allow commencement of economic ties between the two countries at the earliest.

Talking to newsmen here on the sidelines of Confederation of Indian (CII) summit here, Mr. Sharma said India is of the view that SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Area) Agreement for opening the mutual markets should be implemented fully. SAFTA members include Bangladesh, Bhutan,

India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. ``After all, there has been economic integration among other regions like East Asia and South-East Asia. South Asia should be part of that story.

Pakistan has to be part of the South Asian economic integration,’’ he advocated.

Mr. Sharma said after Mr. Khullar returns from Islamabad, he would brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the talks held in Islamabad and then a strategy would be formulated to move forward.

Asked whether export of petroleum products from India to Pakistan would be on the agenda of the Commerce Secretaries, Mr. Sharma refused to comment, saying it would be premature to talk about specifics.

India is willing to export petrol and diesel to the neighbouring country, if Pakistan lifted a ban on its imports from across the border.

Pakistan imports 4-5 million tonnes of diesel from Kuwait every year. Trade between India and Pakistan has remained low at about $2 billion. Pakistan currently allows India to export items like meat, edible oil, cereals, tobacco, chemicals, fertilisers, leather, cotton, silk, coffee, tea and oilseeds

Mr. Sharma said the recent decline in the flow of foreign direct investment to India is temporary and it would pick up in the coming months given the strong macro economic outlook. ``The decline is temporary. Some major FDI proposals are in the pipeline. I am sure it will increase in the coming months,’’ he added.

He said the revelations of scams and corporate frauds would not deter foreign firms and institutions from investing in India as it was just a short-term phenomenon. In the first 11 months of fiscal 2010-11, foreign direct investment fell 25.67 percent to $18.3 billion as compared to $24.62 billion during the corresponding period of the previous year. ``India is a functional constitutional democracy and has the ability to fix the problems. The government was committed to creating a corruption-free environment and would deal with culprits sternly. India is not the only country where scams and frauds have taken place. But we have identified and fixed the problems quicker than many of the developed countries,’’ he said.

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