The post-Mumbai India-Pakistan dialogue process will get a ministerial upgrade, when commerce ministers of two countries meet here this month-end.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma will be meeting his Pakistan counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim, amid hopes of Islamabad moving towards granting India, the most-favoured nation (MFN) status for India, which is more of a political issue — though they would not be using the same nomenclature.
Indian officials said efforts are on to convert the trading regime from positive list to negative list — that in effect means MFN. “MFN, let us face, it is a political issue as well. Both sides are working on to change the trading regime from a positive to a negative one. That in effect means MFN only,” explained a senior government official.
Fahim will be accompanied by a business delegation and the main talks are to be held on September 29-30, sources said. After a series of secretary-level talks, both foreign ministers had reviewed the dialogue process in July this year.
Pakistan is trading with India through a positive list-that is a list of products importable from India. The positive list had 42 items for trading in 1986, which was expanded to 1,145 items in 2011. “This itself shows a major shift in trade and why should Pakistan grant an MFN status to India,” said an official.
“Obviously Pakistan, like any other country, would be protecting its domestic produce and things like that. All these are matters of detail. The call, here, is political,” said the official.
Whether Pakistan will have a negative list in consistent with that of their Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) list is to be seen. That is something New Delhi will be keen on having.