ISLAMABAD - Trade talks between Pakistan and India would resume next month, as State Minister for Commerce and Textile Khurram Dastagir Khan is likely to visit New Delhi to attend the Saarc Business Leaders Conclave.
Sources informed that the state minister would visit India from January 15-17 to attend the event. He would also hold meeting with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma to discuss the bilateral trade issues, especially trade liberalisation matters.
The government has not decided to grant most favoured nation (MFN) status to India, as it would consider it after 2014 general elections of the neighbouring country, sources said. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already made it clear that there was no immediate plan to give MFN status to India, saying there was need to normalise relations between the two countries.
Sources informed that government might assure the Indian government to reduce the items on the negative list from exiting 1,209 items from next year 2014. India, at present, can export all items to Pakistan other than the 1,209 items put on the negative list. The Nation tried to contact State Minister Khurram on his cell phone, but he was not available.
The previous (PPP) government had announced in October 2011 that it would grant MFN status to India from January 1, 2013, by converting the negative list into positive one by the end of 2012, a step that would have automatically granted MFN status to India. However, Pakistan failed to grant that status to India by Dec 31, 2012.
Later, when Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) came into power after the general elections of May 2013, it was supposed that it would grant MFN status to India. Pakistan had assured the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as part of $6.64 billion loan agreement, of granting the MFN status to India. “We are moving forward to eliminate the negative list on trade with India and extend India the most favoured nation status,” Pakistan had said in a letter to the IMF. However, the new government did not grant this status after tension emerged on the eastern border.
Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has said that India is a neighbouring country of Pakistan and cooperation in energy sector would help improve bilateral relations between the two countries.
He said that India, especially East Punjab has set up biomass, biogas and small hydel projects for generation of electricity and Punjab government wants to benefit from these successful projects.
He expressed these views while talking to a delegation of Indian energy experts, led by Pawind Parweet Badal which met him here on Wednesday.
Matters regarding cooperation in energy sector were discussed in the meeting.
The Chief Minister said that due to energy crisis, economic and trade activities have slowed down in the country.
However, he said, government is determined to overcome shortage of electricity and measures are being taken for this purpose on emergent basis. He said that special incentives are being offered to local and foreign investors and companies for investment in energy sector.
The Chief Minister said that government is making every effort to overcome shortage of electricity and several agreements have been signed with local and foreign companies and investors for cooperation in energy sector.
He said that there are vast opportunities of setting up biomass, biogas and small hydel projects for generation of electricity in the province.
He said that the Punjab government is also working on various projects of production of electricity from solar, hydel coal, bagasse, wind and other resources.
He said that projects of power generation from biomass, biogas and small hudel projects are running successfully in Indian Punjab and the experience and skill of East Punjab would be fully utilised for expeditious completion of energy projects.
The Chief Minister directed provincial authorities to finalise consultative and technical process immediately for benefitting from India’s experience.
He said that full benefit should be taken from Indian expertise in setting up biogas plants. The Chief Minister directed that setting up biomass projects of 15 megawatt each be considered while work should be started without any delay on setting up small hydel projects on canals.
He said that every moment of the nation is precious and concerned officials should finalise viable projects without wasting any time.
The head of Indian delegation said that all out cooperation would be extended to Punjab government in establishing biogas, biomass and small hydel projects for power generation.