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Pak hints at delay in normalising trade with India

Pakistan today indicated it will not meet the February timeline for normalising bilateral trade, a development which would delay grant of the most favoured nation (MFN) status by Islamabad to New Delhi.

world Updated: Feb 13, 2012 23:38 IST

Belying India's expectations, Pakistan on Monday indicated it will not meet the February timeline for normalising bilateral trade, a development which would delay grant of the most favoured nation (MFN) status by Islamabad to New Delhi.

"On this particular issue (from positive to negative list), commerce secretaries of both the countries met twice. They will keep meeting and discuss everything," Pakistan commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim said, as he received Indian counterpart Anand Sharma at the Wagah border.

As per an understanding between commerce secretaries of the two countries in November last year, Pakistan was to allow in February 2012, import of all Indian goods, excepting a few items in the 'Negative List'.

Asked about the timeline, Fahim said, "We will try... If we set a new deadline today and tomorrow we slip, it will not be good."

He, however said that the visa issue has been sorted out and an agreement to this effect will be signed soon, enabling businessmen of the two countries to get multiple-entries.

On grant of the MFN status to India, he said, "Our Cabinet has already given in-principle (approval). Now, we are moving towards implementing. It is under process. We are moving fast on this. It takes time."

Even the negative list was to be phased out by Pakistan by end of 2012, culminating into MFN for India and giving boost to the bilateral trade which is at a paltry USD 2.7 billion.

Fahim's remarks may not please Sharma, the first Indian commerce minister in the last three decades to visit Pakistan.

Construction of an integrated check-post at Wagah border has also not been completed as per the roadmap set earlier.

Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed said yesterday in Karachi that the hardliners would oppose any move by Pakistan to give MFN to India.