For trade normalisation, ground issues must be addressed first, says Salman Bashir

Stressing that normalisation of trade between India and Pakistan was very important for stabilising relations, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir on Thursday indicated that more decisions to improve trade ties were likely to be taken in the coming weeks and months.

Refusing to speculate on when the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status would be conferred on India, Mr. Bashir said: “We are, in a way, satisfied on trade with India. The economic-, trade-cooperation track has seen a lot of meetings between the two sides which has been very positive and in the coming weeks and months there will be further decisions taken for the better,” he said at a function organised by Assocham for business delegation from Pakistan.

India had in 1996 granted MFN status to Pakistan but Islamabad has not reciprocated the move thus far. Pakistan also missed the December 31, 2012 deadline for phasing out the negative list regime for trade with India but has promised to do so as soon as a new government was elected.

Ground issues

Mr. Bashir 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 roadmap for that. We are working on that 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.

‘Implement pacts’

Citing the example of the visa agreement, Mr. Bashir said:“What’s the fun when [the] agreement [is] signed, but not implemented?”

‘MFN will benefit both nations’

“If you look at the trade figures today, they indicate that despite [India not being given] 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,” the Pakistan High Commissioner said.

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