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'Pak hampering SAFTA implementation'

The Indian external affairs minister said Islamabad has not reciprocated to New Delhi's gesture of offering tariff reduction.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 18:54 IST

India on Wednesday accused Pakistan of hampering implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) because of its refusal to agree to free trade.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Pakistan has not reciprocated to India's gesture of offering tariff reduction and instead stuck to its position of doing trade on the basis of a 'positive list' of items.

"Operationalisation of SAFTA could not take place as Pakistan never agreed to free trade," he told journalists accompanying him before winding up his two-day visit here primarily to extend invitation to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the 14th SAARC Summit to be held in April.

Mukherjee said Pakistan has insisted on doing trade with India on the basis of 'positive list' only which recently was updated to include over 1000 items from 773 items.

The issue figured during his recent visit to Pakistan, the minister said and added that the matter will now be discussed by the SAARC Council of Ministers next month.

Referring to Afghanistan's inclusion in SAARC as its eighth member, Mukherjee said it assumes significance as it marks completion of the integration process of the regional organisation.

He said the issue of transit was discussed during his visit to Islamabad recently. "Pakistan should respond, not just in words but also in action".

Pointing out that India and Afghanistan had shared concern over cross-border terrorism, Mukherjee underlined that resurgence of Taliban was hampering reconstruction and development of the war-ravaged country.

He said Taliban cadres were operating from border areas and their activities needed to be curbed for reconstruction and development process of Afghanistan to succeed.

This is the primary objective of NATO, said the minister who discussed the issue with Karzai and Afghanistan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta here.