India is moving forward in signing free trade agreements with the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), although the two agreements are unlikely to be inked right away, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday.

“We are trying to find ways to address the issues that are causing the delay in the signing and finalisation of the agreements. We have been able to formulate the manner in which we will be able to overcome the delays. There is some resistance from one or two countries. We are trying to address their concerns and I believe we have a formulation available now. It may not be done right away but we are moving forward significantly,” the official added.

The India-Asean summit is scheduled to be held in December, while the India-EU summit is slated for early next year.

On whether security concerns in Afghanistan may make Indian companies rethink on President Hamid Karzai’s invitation to invest there, the official, while accepting that things were not as they should be, said this was an ideal opportunity for Indian companies to “break ground and establish themselves” there.

“It will be sad if we do not grasp this opportunity; it will not come again. There are others who are willing and will not stop. We already have our footprint there. We can enhance that with the involvement of the private sector,” the official said.

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s possible visit to Pakistan, the official said no decision had been taken.

“The window is a very small one because they are moving very fast on their elections. I am not sure if the visit will be possible as the window is so short. It is something which is up there on the radar. We need to factor in developments on both the sides,” the official said.

ashwini.phadnis@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 16, 2012)
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