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Pak's Kashmir fixation

Toeing a hawkish line, Pakistan raised the Kashmir issue at the India Economic Summit, reports KA Badarinath.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2006 03:30 IST

Toeing a hawkish line, Pakistan raised the Kashmir issue at the India Economic Summit being jointly held by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"Resolving the Kashmir dispute is a pre-requisite to expand any commercial relations between the two countries," said Omar Ayub Khan, minister of state for finance, on the sidelines of the WEF summit.

"With two nuclear powers (India and Pakistan) side by side, how many foreign investors would come to the region," questioned Khan in an informal chat with reporters.

"The core issue is Kashmir. Unless we lay a clear roadmap to resolving the Kashmir dispute, we cannot expand commercial trade," said Omar Ayub Khan, without mincing words.

Pakistan is not willing to consider giving Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India pending resolution of the border dispute. Further, Islamabad does not see possibility of operationalising the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta) agreement without finding a way out for the Kashmir issue, Omar Ayub Khan said.

Already, India has accorded MFN status to Pakistan without getting the same treatment for its goods, services and investments in that country.

"There is a lot of trust deficit that needs to be bridged before expanding trade relations between the two countries," the Pakistani Minister said. In this context, he cited the fact that trade between two countries constitutes just 1 to 1.5 percent of the total exports and imports made by Pakistan and India.

"This clearly demonstrates that fundamentally there is something seriously wrong in the bilateral equation," Khan said.

However, his Sri Lankan counterpart and minister of investment and enterprise development Rohitha Bogoliama did not agree with this prognosis. Without referring to the Tamil problem in the southern peninsular region, Bogoliama suggested delinking of political and economic issues.

"We have no problem in having trade with both Pakistan and India" Bogoliama said. Other panelists hinted that a third country would be the beneficiary in the on-going dispute between India and Pakistan.

First Published: Nov 28, 2006 03:30 IST