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Pak hopeful of 'breakthrough' on trade ties with India

world Updated: Nov 04, 2011 22:29 IST

Pakistan on Friday said it was "extremely hopeful" of making a breakthrough in upcoming talks with India on normalising bilateral trade relations, amid the government's decision to work towards granting MFN status to New Delhi.

"We are extremely hopeful that there will be a major breakthrough in the next round of talks between the commerce secretaries on November 14 and 15 in Delhi," commerce secretary Zafar Mahmood told reporters.

He said the two sides would "finalise all the details" during the talks.

Mahmood said the cabinet had been briefed on steps being taken to normalise trade with India and about "further steps" that need to be taken in this regard.

"The cabinet has given the mandate to the commerce ministry to take this process forward and go ahead with creating trading arrangements based on the MFN principle," he said.

On Wednesday, information minister Firdous Awan told a news conference that the cabinet had unanimously approved a proposal to give India MFN status.

However, the Foreign Office announced on Thursday that the cabinet had only "decided in principle to according MFN to India, which both sides will have to work towards in further engagements by the commerce secretaries".

In September, the commerce ministers of the two countries agreed to double trade within three years to USD six billion and to ease the business visa regime.

India gave Pakistan MFN-status in 1996, but Islamabad has held out on reciprocating due to pressures from some political parties and influential religious groups, which have contended that such a move will weaken the country’s stand on the Kashmir dispute.

India has been pushing for the normalisation of trade relations with Pakistan since the two countries resumed their peace process in February after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed by terrorists of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.