Hoping that Pakistan would soon grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, India's top diplomat to the US has said that such a move would clear the ways for closer trade ties between the two neighbours.
"Pakistan has assured us that it is going to provide most favoured nation status to India. We are waiting for that decision to actually be announced formally and implemented. That would certainly be a boost not only to confidence but also would clear the ways for much closer trade ties between the two countries," Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao said.
She was responding to questions on Friday after delivering remarks on 'US-India Economic Agenda in 2013' at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based eminent think-tank.
"India and Pakistan are two close neighbours. We cannot disregard that basic fact, whatever the differences between us may be. We have put in place a process of dialogue between India and Pakistan and significant part of that process does focus on how we may build better trade ties between the two countries. And there has been considerable movement on that front in the last 18 months," she said.
The business constituency, especially in Pakistan, Rao argued, has a bigger desire to open trade with India.
"They see benefit. They see good thing flowing out of that process. That itself is very encouraging," she said.
Noting that Afghanistan is a hub of Asia, the heart of Asia, the connective tissue between South and Central Asia, Rao said: "We have to ensure that Afghanistan plays that role, for its own well-being, for our own well-being."
Transit and trade with Afghanistan through Pakistan into India is important in that context, she added.
"I am not saying this because I have been authorised at the policy level to say this. I am saying this from my own knowledge of the subject and the constraints that we have faced and to allow Afghanistan to come into its own to really make its debut in terms of being trading partner for other South Asian nations, to enable free flow of goods and services to the rest of the region," she said.
Responding to questions, Rao said New Delhi is committed to expeditious conclusion of the negotiations on bilateral investment treaty (BIT).
"It is fairly a complex process. We are getting to a stage where we are examining model texts, are talking to each other at the technical level. The goal is shared by two sides that we need to complete this negotiation as quickly as possible. So I am reasonably optimistic that the given the direction and the political will by the two governments, we are headed in the right direction,"
Once the BIT is in place, this would set the stage for closer economic arrangement, Rao said, in response to a question on possibility of free trade agreement with the US.
Noting that India's engagement with the Asia Pacific region has grown tremendously over the last two decades, she said: "We need an architecture of economic engagement involving not only the countries of the region but also the big economies that are connected through trade and economic activities of the region."
India has entered into discussion and looking into comprehensively into regional economic partnership for ties with the ASEAN and with other major economies in Asia.