India, Pak open trade talks
India and Pakistan today began their first trade talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, opening a two-day session designed to boost business between the nuclear-armed rivals.world Updated: Apr 27, 2011 14:50 IST
India and Pakistan on Wednesday began their first trade talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, opening a two-day session designed to boost business between the nuclear-armed rivals.
India blamed the attack -- in which gunmen killed 166 people -- on the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan has acknowledged that the plot was hatched at least partly on its soil.
Pakistan commerce and trade secretary Zafar Mahmood and his Indian counterpart Rahul Khullar led the talks at a five-star hotel in Islamabad.
"I believe that this meeting will take the dialogue process forward and by the end of the meeting all issues relating to facilitation and promotion of bilateral trade could be addressed with consensus," Mahmood said.
Mahmood said the talks had an "open agenda" and the two sides would discuss "all the issues" of interest to both countries.
He said improving trade would economically benefit both countries and the region. Pakistan's economy languishes far behind that of India.
"Pakistan understands that there is a great potential to further increase the bilateral trade," Mahmood said.
Khullar called for a quick turnaround of trade after four previous rounds of commerce talks ground to a halt in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
"This is a process that was interrupted and that must resume and go on. It must acquire significantly fast momentum if only to catch up for the time that we have lost," Khullar said.
"We are ready and willing to move forward and our only perspective here is one of constructive engagement to move the bilateral trade agenda and commercial agenda ahead and fast."
Trade between Pakistan and India is around $2 billion.
Acrimonious ties between the neighbours eased last month when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani watched the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi final in northern India.
The nuclear-armed nations have fought three wars since attaining independence in 1947, two over the disputed territory of Kashmir.