Question mark on Commerce Minister's visit to Pakistan

India is yet to receive a confirmation from Pakistan on its commitment to the implementation of three bilateral trade proposals on which Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to Lahore next week is conditional.

Mr. Sharma’s office, when contacted by The Hindu on Friday, did not confirm either way if the visit was still on or had been called off. Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid told reporters on Friday: “I believe my colleague Anand Sharma is going to Pakistan on trade talks, let us see what will happen.”

Following last month’s visit of the Pakistan Trade Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan to Delhi, India’s Commerce Secretary had had written to his Pakistani counterpart demanding expeditious implementation of the issues the two ministers had agreed to here, Commerce Ministry sources told The Hindu. The Pakistani side is yet to respond, they added. “Unless the Pakistani side agrees to the issues, Mr. Sharma’s visit cannot be confirmed.” Mr. Sharma is to visit Pakistan to inaugurate the “India Show” in Lahore on February 14 and participate in bilateral meetings the next day in Islamabad.

The proposals that were agreed between the two sides in Delhi are: 24/7-trade of all goods through Wagah-Attari border, dismantling of the negative list of 1,209 items and bringing down the sensitive list of items to 100 under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) over a period of five years; both to be done by Pakistan. India has already reduced its sensitive list of items to 614 and had agreed at the bilateral talks last month to further cut it to 100 in one year’s time.

At present, only 137 items can be traded through Attari- Wagah land border. If Pakistan eliminates the negative list, it would automatically lead to Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) for India. This is in lieu of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, a term Pakistan has said it is not in a position to use with regard to India.

In 2012-13, India-Pakistan bilateral trade was $2.6 billion, up from $1.9 billion in the previous year. India’s main exports to Pakistan include sugar, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its imports comprise mineral fuels, among others.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 8:55:02 PM |

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