Zardari, Singh to talk trade over lunch

Published: April 8, 2012

Troika meets on eve of departure; Khar, Malik also attend meeting. PHOTO: PID

LAHORE: 

President Asif Ali Zardari is visiting Ajmer to pay respects at the shrine of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.

He is, however, also likely to seek the saint’s blessings for Pakistan-India bilateral trade because sources say that would be the core issue at his luncheon with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Although the visit is termed ‘private,’ it will be the first visit by a Pakistani head of state to India since 2005.

According to the official schedule, the president will have lunch with Singh and then head to the shrine in Ajmer.  While the agenda for the luncheon has been kept open, sources say the two leaders are likely to talk trade.

Talking trade

“The two leaders will be having discussion over some issues,” said the foreign office without further elaboration.

Indian diplomats based in Islamabad were equally elusive. “We have not set any agenda for the meeting,” a diplomat said.

But sources say President Zardari and Prime Minister Singh are likely to finalise  the date of implementation of the Most- Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.

The two leaders will provide their assent to a technical draft prepared and agreed upon earlier by commerce ministers of both countries and discuss and resolve political non-tariff barriers (NTB), sources told The Express Tribune.

While India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, implying no restrictions to bilateral trade, Pakistan decided in November 2011 to reciprocate the gesture.

The countries have decided to lower the existing barriers step-wise until their complete abolition by December 2012.

Draft agreed upon

Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma almost finalised the draft of the agreement during their last meeting, sources said.

The draft already agreed upon includes Pakistan’s assent, in principle, to grant the MFN status to India and a finalised negative list of non-tradeable items which will be phased out by the year’s end. It also includes NTBs which India will withdraw in the meanwhile.

While the trade and commerce ministries have almost finalised the technical NTBs, political barriers have been left for discussions between Zardari and Singh.

The two leaders will give a go-ahead to that draft and finalise the date of announcement of the implementation of the agreement, sources said, adding that they will also discuss and add their political input in the draft with the support of interior and foreign ministries.

The new suggestions will be incorporated in the draft by commerce ministers at their upcoming meeting scheduled for April 12 and 13, sources said.

After the meeting of commerce ministers, the Indian and Pakistani premiers will sign and announce the final agreement.

Political barriers

According to sources, the two leaders will discuss softening of borders and visa relaxation, especially for traders and businessmen, and trade in local currencies.

The added that the president will suggest to Singh that traders are stamped a visa at the border, and that banks from both countries open branches in the other country.

Sources said President Zardari wants to give a ‘breakthrough’ to the people of Pakistan through opening up unhindered trade with India.

Trade between the two countries stands at $2 billion at present but can potentially soar to $10 billion once all barriers are removed with the implementation of MFN status, a federal Cabinet member said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

The president, meanwhile, talked to a delegation of Lahore’s Chamber of Commerce on Saturday and attempted to dispel their reservations that Indian goods will flood Pakistani markets and harm local industry.

According to the Presidency, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will accompany the president to India on a special aircraft.

Trioka meets

On the eve of his visit, the president also met with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Saturday evening. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the interior minister also attended the meeting. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT BY QAMAR ZAMAN IN ISLAMABAD)

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Baby ka Husband
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:57AM

    Come come ET!!! Do you seriously believe that anything positive for Pakistan is going to come out of this meeting??? Name me one meeting with a foreign leader in which Pakistan’s objectives have been achieved??? It’s nothing but a junket at the expense of the poor people of Pakistan. When these people rise from hunger then hopefully there will not be a plane made available for an exit junket.

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  • Raj - USA
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:22AM

    On visas to India, it has become very difficult even for persons of Indian origin who have obtained US Passports to get visit visas to India. These changes have come into effect after the David Colman (AKA Dawood Gillani) incidence. Many Indians who have obtained US Passports have not bothered to surrender their Indian passports and jut let it expire. I have done the same. In order to get visit visas to India, such US Passports holders have to submit their expired Indian Passports and pay a fine for not surrendering it or submit the original School Leaving Certificate from India to show they had earlier held Indian Citizenship. It gets more complicated as many who were holding Indian Passports earlier had changed their name at the time of obtaining US Passports as some Indian names were too long and confusing to Americans. So, they have to submit the original School Leaving certificate from India to show that they are the same person. My father had to wait for over 6 months to get a visit visa to India as he could not find either his School Leaving Certificate or his expired Indian Passport. Just letting Pakistanis know this so that they do not complain. Yes, it is the fault of many like myself who have not bothered to follow the regulations strictly as those days getting Indian visas was not difficult.

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  • hyderabadi
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:23AM

    Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi has already confirmed on T uesday that pakistan has successfully rwmoved the list of not tradeable products. today’s meeting is actually to make the indian side to give something to show goodwill to the pak army.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:31AM

    Raj
    our panel code is still the same left by British and afsos or shame is no one dare to change
    it when ever some one trys it he is kicked out in pakistan its a army who are protector of this balony. and nimak halal of raj.

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