Islamabad: Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said that Pakistan's decision to grant India 'most favoured nation' status for trade is in line with the protocol of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.
Talking to reporters here, Sharma said India has always been willing to be the initiator of this positive approach.
"We are in favour of the SAFTA protocols to be honoured by all SAFTA members, and Pakistan, after they have embraced the MFN, would be moving in that direction, and definitely, there will be not only reciprocity, but India has always been asymmetrical in its approach. We have unilaterally taken steps and once what has been assured is notified, India will be very positive in its approach," Sharma added.
Sharma further said that in the context of agreements such as SAFTA, the bigger picture was important in order to gain an understanding of the evolving trading atmosphere in the region.
"You see, we have to look at the overall picture, that what is the intensity of the engagement, and what India has been able to contribute vis-a-vis Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Then we are talking of the LDCs (least developed countries), taking in our embrace Afghanistan. So you always need to look at the larger picture, also what we are doing with Pakistan," Sharma added.
Sharma's comments were echoed by Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar, who said that India's position with respect to SAFTA had evolved in a positive direction over the years.
"For those who've been following what's happening on SAFTA, first India moved to zero duty for the LDCs in 2006. Then in November last year, the Prime Minister announced a huge improvement, which was basically dismantling the sensitive list altogether," Khullar said.
SAFTA is a pact that was signed on January 6, 2004, envisioning the gradual elimination of most tariffs and trade barriers on products and services passing between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
First Published: Friday, February 17, 2012, 21:07