New Delhi is looking at some doable steps: Sharma

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

Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar had already reached Pakistan on Tuesday for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Zafar Mehmood. New Delhi is looking at 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 a Confederation of Indian (CII) summit here, Mr. Sharma said India was of the view that SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Area) Agreement for opening the mutual markets should be implemented fully. “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 returned 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.

Mr. Sharma said the recent decline in the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) to India is temporary and it would pick up in the coming months given the strong macro economic outlook. In the first 11 months of fiscal 2010-11, foreign direct investment fell 25.67 per cent to $18.3 billion from $24.62 billion during the corresponding period of the previous year.