Pakistan continues to send mixed signals on on granting Most Favoured Nation status to India as a trade partner, saying on Wednesday it may take it up after elections.
“We have to give it a chance perhaps after the new elections (in India),” said Pakistani finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar at a Washington DC think tank event. But Pakistan was ready, he added.
The minister suggested it was India, instead, which, because of its coming elections, seemed not ready for it as it was not ready to “move the composite dialogue forward”.
“Composite dialogue” in India-Pakistan negotiations stands for all issues, including Kashmir in all caps. The Sharif government seems to be hitching MFN to composite dialogue.
India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996.
Pakistani ministers have made contradictory statements recently on a move to grant India the MFN status, which will merely normalize trading conditions -- level the field.
During loan negotiations with the IMF early last month Dar had said, according to Dawn newspaper, Pakistan was moving towards “extending India MFN status”, with no strings
Another minister said later the same month Pakistan cannot consider it at a time of heightened tensions along the border, following the killing of five Indian soldiers.
Normalization of trade relations between the two countries has been a slow process, getting its first real start in November 2011, with the cabinet’s formal approval.
There were 1,900 items which could be imported into Pakistan from India, called the positive list, as anything outside of it was not permitted. This was a start.
It made way for a negative list of 1,206, expanding the tradable menu to over 5,000 items. And Pakistan was to grant MFN to India by December 2012 end. It missed that deadline.
Trade between the two coutnries stood at $2.35 billion in 2012-13.
‘Pak nukes are safe’
Minister Dar surprised everyone with unsolicited assurance about the safety of his country’s nuclear arsenal saying, “The world should stop worrying about nuclear Pakistan.”
“We had a recent review,” said Dar, “and this is my core message today: the world should stop, I repeat, should stop worrying about the safety of nuclear Pakistan.”
There are concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into its extremists, including those with links to the Taliban and al Qaeda, in view of their increasing influence.
NSA contractors Edward Snowden’s leaks -- the black budget -- showed the US was spending a considerable sum of money on tracking Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
A few days after that revelation -- in Washington Post -- Pakistan announced that its nuclear command and control were to be in a “robust” in a review.
“Pakistan is in safe hands, and so are its nukes,” said Dar, who is is a member of the National Command Authority, which has oversight over the country’s nuclear arsenal.