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India, Pak to cement trade ties

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz offers to sell cement to India, a day after he linked improved trade between India and Pakistan to the Kashmir issue, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

delhi Updated: Apr 04, 2007 16:44 IST

A day after he linked improved trade between India and Pakistan to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday offered to sell cement to India. His offer came when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a bilateral meeting shortly before the two of them went into retreat with other SAARC summiteers for informal discussions at Hyderabad House.



Aziz and Singh discussed a wide array of issues including trade, energy, banking and air connectivity, the Prime Minister's Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru said. They agreed to increase air connectivity between India and Pakistan. Singh proposed direct air links between the capitals of all SAARC countries at the inaugural session of the regional forum on Tuesday. Singh and Aziz agreed that discussions on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline would continue, Baru said in the release.



Pakistan, which has resisted granting most favoured nation status to India, saying the Kashmir dispute requires resolution before it would allow free trade with India, has also denied India MFN rights under the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) arrangement, which technically came into force on July 1, 2006.



Aziz, however, on Wednesday proposed that Pakistan export cement to India, taking advantage of the duty reductions the Indian government just announced.



The two Prime Minsters agreed to review the status of each other's citizens held prisoner in both countries. Foreign Ministers of the two countries had agreed earlier this year to set up a committee of retired senior judges to look into the plight of prisoners in each other's jails. Both countries have submitted a list of judges to the other, but the final composition of the four-member judicial commission has yet to be finalised.



Pakistan would also "take early action to return fishing boats seized from Indian fishermen to their owners," the release said. Their meeting lasted half an hour and included discussions on issues like Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir, but the substance of those talks was not available.



Defence secretaries from India and Pakistan are meeting in Islamabad on Friday (April 6) to discuss the Siachen issue, as part of the composite dialogue process.