Pakistan may take time to extend the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India by removing all import bans, but it seems ready to allow more items to be traded through the Wagah border.

Land route “Enhancement and facilitation of trade through Wagah is under active negotiation at the moment. We are hoping to have a positive outcome,” Pakistan’s Trade Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said addressing a meeting organised by CII on Thursday.

Khan will meet Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Saturday for the next round of India-Pakistan trade talks that was suspended early last year following violence at the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir.

“The next round of negotiations is later this week. Let us see how things progress. Wagah (trade) is the next stepping stone,” the Pakistan Minister said when asked about the number of items that could be allowed through Wagah.

Increase in trade through land route is one of the two main demands made by India for normalisation of the bilateral trade process. Pakistan allows just about 300 items to be traded through the land route. This increases the cost of transportation several-fold as most items have to be shipped through the sea route.

In return for agreeing to more trade through Wagah, Pakistan may seek preferential market access for a greater number of items, especially textiles. Although India allows a large number of goods from Pakistan at low duties under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement, it denies preferential access to certain key products like textiles.

Khan said that Pakistan was keen on giving non-discriminatory access to India, which is a more politically acceptable term for MFN status, and it would gradually happen.

Liberal visa process The Pakistani Minister also called for a more liberal visa process for smooth movement of business persons.

Since the trade normalisation process started two years back, Pakistan increased the number of items allowed from India to about 6,800 from 2,000. It continues to ban about 1,000 items in the area of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles and automobiles. India-Pakistan trade, at present, stands at about $3 billion, which could touch $10 billion after restrictions are removed, according toestimates made by CII.