The decision to grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status is a good step; however if the non-tariff and para-tariff barriers are not removed, the decision will be unable to promote trade and investment, as has been the case with India’s granting of MFN status to Pakistan long ago. This was said by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Secretary General Imtiaz Alam in a press statement here on Thursday.
Alam observed that as a result of the decision, bilateral trade between the two neighbours is expected to swell to over $6 billion, while the frequency of trade across the Line of Control (LoC) will also go up to the benefit of the people of Kashmir. He also noted that the decision is “a good omen” for the success of the agreement to create the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which was signed at the SAARC Summit in Islamabad in 2004.
Alam said that the decision will help reduce smuggling, trade via third countries, bring down import bills especially on intermediary goods, raise revenues and help meet seasonal scarcity of food items across the borders. Industrial sectors relying heavily on intermediary goods and the agricultural sector will benefit much from the trade liberalisation, he said. He advised the two governments to also open services sector as required under SAFTA.
He said that local manufacturers should be encouraged to explore the huge Indian market for their exports and also initiate joint ventures with their Indian counterparts. The decision should also help a liberal and easy visa regime to promote tourism and people to people contacts, he said, adding that improving connectivity across borders is the most important element in promoting trade, investment and mutually-beneficial dependencies.
Alam called on the two governments to move forward on other items of comprehensive dialogue to create solid basis for peace and cooperation between the two countries and the region at large.
He demanded that all barriers on free flow of information and free movement of journalists across South Asian borders should be lifted. He hoped India and Pakistan will understand each other’s interest in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2011.