Foreign ministry official says next month’s meeting in Islamabad will work to normalize bilateral trade.
Pakistan on Thursday said it would resume work on improving trade ties with India when the two nations’ foreign secretaries meet in Islamabad next month.
Pakistan had pledged to grant India “Most Favored Nation (MFN)” status by the end of 2012, meaning Indian exports would be treated the same as those from other nations, but so far has not done so. India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1999.
“When the dialogue process resumes, we hope to build on the work already done in this regard,” said Pakistan’s top foreign ministry bureaucrat Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry at a weekly press briefing. The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are set to meet in Islamabad on Aug. 25 in the neighboring countries’ latest attempt at improving ties.
The proposed meeting, announced by Pakistan’s foreign office on Wednesday, comes after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi following the Hindu hardliner’s inauguration in May.
Chaudhry said there were number of issues on both sides for normalizing bilateral trade which included “making sure that vulnerable sectors are protected and the issue of the non-tariff barriers in India and the issue of imbalance of trade and certain other infrastructure-related issue.”
MFN status will mean India can export 6,800 items to Pakistan, up from around 2,000 at present, and the countries aim to lift bilateral trade to $6 billion within three years, officials have said. Trade between the two countries is presently around $2.5 billion, with Indian exports accounting for $1.75 billion, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A further $3 billion is thought to be channeled through Dubai, almost all of it in Pakistani imports, though the business community believes that if Pakistan grants India MFN status the imbalance could change.
India and Pakistan have directed their peace efforts towards “trade diplomacy” in a bid to build enough trust to tackle thornier issues that divide them, such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. Bilateral relations broke down after attacks by gunmen from Pakistan on Mumbai in 2008, in which 166 people were killed, though relations have recovered slightly since then.
India in August 2012 lifted a ban on foreign investment from Pakistan except in defense, space and atomic energy in a step designed to build goodwill amid the renewed push for a peace settlement.