India again dithers on trade talks

New Delhi/Kolkata - India has said that resumption of talks with Pakistan on normalisation of commercial ties can only happen after it fulfils its commitment of removing trade restrictions.
There is a "sequential roadmap" and it was decided during the last meeting of Pak-India commerce secretaries that Pakistan will remove all restrictions pertaining to trade and commerce, Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s State Minister for Commerce and Textile Khurram Dastagir Khan is scheduled to visit India from January 15-17 to attend SAARC Business Leaders Conclave and media reports said he was also to meet India Commerce Minister Anand Sharma for trade talks. But Indian spokesperson categorically said the next round of talks can only take place when the first step is completed.
The trade liberalisation process between the two countries was impacted after the tensions flared up on Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir in January.
Pakistan had then halted the granting of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by elimination of its negative list of items, which was due in December last year. India had granted MFN status to the neighbouring country way back in 1996, but systematic indirect bottlenecks have been denying its benefit to Pakistani business community.
India, at present, can export all items to Pakistan other than the 1,209 items put on the negative list. But on ground, only 137 items can be traded through the Wagah land border, though the total number of items for bilateral trade runs into thousands. The bilateral trade between the countries stood at $2.60 billion in 2012-13.
The Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan met the last time in September 2012. During that meeting, both the sides had signed three agreements for cooperation in customs matters, redressal of trade grievances and conforming to quality standards. Both the sides have also planned to liberalise trade in sectors like power and petroleum.
On the other hand, declining to comment on the prospect of the BJP's Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister, outgoing Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir has said any regime change in India would not affect bilateral ties.
"We respect every leader, every political party, and it being India's internal matter, we don't have an opinion on that. The common denominator is the people of India. Therefore our reach out is to the people," Bashir told media persons in Kolkata when asked to give his views about Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate.
"It is not proper for me or for anybody from Pakistan to be here in India and comment either on Indian political process or any situation in any other country," he added. With the Lok Sabha elections due in India early next year, Bashir said any change in the regime will not come in the way of the mutual ties which both the countries have been working to improve.
"I don't think that regime change really matters. The relation between states are state relations. They are not personal or party specific. It is the considered policy of Pakistan to forge friendly and cooperative relations with India." Bashir asserted that Pakistan was a firm believer in democracy.

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dithers india trade talks
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