February trade talks still on, Pakistan assures India

Arun S. New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018


India to take stock of situation next week

Despite the mounting tension in Pakistan due to the Government-military standoff, Islamabad has informed New Delhi that the bilateral official and business talks as well as exhibitions slated for next month are still on as scheduled.

Officials here, however, are keeping a close eye on the developments and are expected to take stock of the situation along with India Inc next week.

“As of now the Pakistan Government has not called it off. They told us that the scheduled dates remain as it is. Therefore, the programme is ‘on' till we get a written communication (from Pakistan) to the contrary,” official sources told Business Line.

Much is at stake. During February 11-13, there is the ‘India Show', an exhibition of Indian products (of over 100 stalls), organised with the help of the Indian industry body FICCI and another by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations – at Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

This is apart from the business-to-business networking and Chief Executive Officers Forum talks where around 100 CEOs are likely to participate. The main sectors represented are gems and jewellery, leather, textiles, auto components, agriculture machinery and medical tourism.

Then, there are bilateral level meetings led by the respective Commerce Ministers slated for February 13-16. The issues include trade in petroleum and power, easing of business visa procedures, improving border infrastructure, import of Bt cotton seeds from India and bilateral investment. Ms Ambika Sharma, Deputy Secretary General, FICCI, said, “The visit was conceptualised to actualise the intent behind the recent bilateral initiatives and goodwill gestures.”

Meanwhile, on the proposal of opening bank branches in each other's countries, India has suggested January 20 or January 30 as the date for talks between the Central Banks of both countries. However, sources said, Pakistan is yet to respond.

As part of full normalisation of bilateral trade ties, Pakistan was to transition from the current Positive List approach to a Negative List.

“A small Negative List shall be finalised and ratified by February 2012 (by Pakistan). Thereafter, all items other than those on the Negative List shall be freely exportable from India to Pakistan,” the November 2011 joint statement had said.

But latest reports from Islamabad say the process of Pakistan ratifying the small Negative List and officially granting India the Most Favoured Nation status is not likely to be completed till October 2012.

On the ‘non-tariff barriers' perceived by the Pakistan side regarding their exports to India (including cement, food items, textiles and surgical instruments), New Delhi has asked them to send a detailed note on the issues so that a discussion can be organised with a panel of regulators.

The other issue is the operationalisation of the Rs 150-crore Integrated Check Post at the Wagah-Attari border by February-end.

A bilateral meeting is scheduled on January 23 to look into the delay due to the differences regarding the site for the second gate, construction of roads and fencing. There is also a cost over-run of Rs 20-30 crore due to the delay, the sources added.


Published on January 13, 2012

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