Pakistan ready to extend MFN status to India: Envoy

Kolkata, March 17 (IANS) Asserting that Pakistan would confer India the status of most favoured nation (MFN) once the dialogue process resumed, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit Tuesday claimed that his country had almost extended the facility in March 2014 before it was informally conveyed to wait.

"Pakistan was about to extend the MFN status to India in March 2014, but it was informally told, since it was an election year, it would be better if Pakistan waited and extended the facility after the polls," Basit said during a Calcutta Chamber of Commerce organised event here.

Asserting that Pakistan was keen to multiply its trade volume with India, he said the MFN status, now rechristened as non-discriminatory market access (NDMA), will be extended to India once the talks between the two countries resumed.

"As soon as India and Pakistan resume the dialogue process, Pakistan will extend the facility. Its just a matter of time.. In fact Pakistan is almost decide to extend the MFN after the dialogues begin," he said.

Despite India according the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, Basit said his country had been reluctant to reciprocate owing to the "massive" adverse balance of trade with India.

"Bilateral trade now stands at $2.7 billion with Pakistan export to India accounting just $0.4 billion. While we would certainly like to see the bilateral trade to grow, there are practical problems that need to be sorted out.

"There's visa problems, connectivity is very poor, and then there are the non-tariff barriers. So, if there is a political will, then all these can be sorted out. That is why it is imperative for the dialogue process to resume and continue," he said.

Lamenting poor connectivity, Basit also called for enhancing investment opportunities in both countries.

"It's not only trade, what is imperative is we need to create investment opportunities in both the countries. At present such opportunities are almost negligible. I would also urge Indian government and private airlines to resume and start operations to and from Pakistan. Right now we have just three flights connecting India and Pakistan," he noted.


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