India says better trade with Pakistan ‘to take some time’


New Delhi on Saturday played down confusion about whether Pakistan was granting India Most Favoured trading nation status, saying such a step “could take some time”. Earlier in the week, Pakistan’s cabinet announced it had approved a proposal giving India the status of “Most Favoured Nation” in a move towards normalising trade relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The cabinet’s decision was seen as a breakthrough in thawing relations between the South Asian neighbours who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. But later Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was quoted by media as saying that the Commerce Ministry had only been tasked by the cabinet to move forward on the issue in bilateral trade negotiations. Indian media reports said Pakistan was backtracking on granting India MFN status.
But on Saturday, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai urged patience.
“According to the information available through the Pakistan government, the cabinet has approved the process of normalisation of trade relations of which most favoured nation is a part,” Mathai told reporters in New Delhi. “The actual implementation would be a culmination of the normalisation process which could take some time,” he said.
Senior Pakistani government officials told AFP that Islamabad had decided “in principle” to give MFN status to India.
While formal trade between the two most populous and largest economies in South Asia is a paltry $2.7 billion annually, unregulated trade, much of it routed through third countries, is estimated at $10 billion.
India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said he would lead a trade delegation to Islamabad next February at the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
Judicial commission: India also welcomed Pakistan’s decision to send a judicial commission to interview witnesses connected with the 26/11 terror probe.
“We look forward to the visit of the judicial commission,” Foreign Secretary Mathai told reporters.
The commission is expected to record the statements of Mumbai Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate RV Sawant Waghule and investigating officer Ramesh Mahale, who had recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Amir Kasab, convicted of the terror attack.