MFN status to India, Pak links it to Kashmir again
Ahead of their crucial trade talks in Islamabad from Monday, Pakistan has stuck to its stance of linking the issues of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for India and transit facilities for its goods with progress in resolution of political issues including Kashmir.
"Pakistan's stand on MFN status to India and opening of Attari-Wagha border on permanent basis for trade of all commodities is very clear and it is linked with progress on political issues including Kashmir," Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Shah, who would lead the Pakistan delegation at the talks, said.
Asked whether Pakistan "gave MFN status to India" following the SAARC countries ratifying the regional free trade area, Shah said bilateral trade with India would still continue through a "positive approach", but did not elaborate.
The ratification of South Asian Free Trade Area by Pakistan and other SAARC countries does not mean that Pakistan has automatically granted MFN status to India. "We will respond in case if there is any query from any quarter about the issue," Shah was quoted as saying by media in Islamabad on Sunday.
Commerce Secretary SM Menon, who is leading a 15-member Indian delegation, arrived in Islamabad on Saturday night to take part in the three-day talks.
Pakistan continues to link the bilateral trade as well as the issue of providing transit facilities to Indian exports to Afghanistan and Central Asia to Kashmir issue, even though the bilateral trade has been on the increase touching a billion dollars in 2005.
It also permitted duty free import of six essential items including sugar through Wagah to tide over shortages in domestic markets.