ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Thursday that it was working to give India the “most-favoured nation” status.
Islamabad said it would re-start work on improving trade ties with arch-rival India when the two nations’ foreign ministers meet in Islamabad next month. Pakistan had pledged to grant India “Most Favoured 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,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said at a weekly press briefing. The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are set to meet in Islamabad on August 25 in the neighbouring 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 normalising 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 futher $3 billion is thought to be channelled 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.
A day after Islamabad and New Delhi came together to reiterate initiating “result oriented” dialogue process and confirmed the meeting of the two foreign secretaries on August 25, Pakistan rejected the Indian allegations of cross-border infiltration on Thursday. “Our troops fired only in response. We do not accept that there were any infiltration attempts,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told the journalists in a rare media appearance. Moreover, he disclosed that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was planning on attacking Pakistani check-posts from Afghanistan, and Mehmood Khan Achakzai was sent to Kabul in this particular backdrop.
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