ISLAMABAD: Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said India and Pakistan will take the process of normalisation of trade to its “logical conclusion” and Delhi will also work towards a preferential trade agreement with Pakistan and easing of visa restrictions for businessmen.
The remarks came as senior commerce officials of the two countries prepare to meet early next week in New Delhi to explore ways to boost bilateral trade.
As part of measures to open up trade, Pakistan on Friday removed restrictions on the import of 12 more goods from India.
The commerce ministry had requested the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the top decision-making body on economic affairs, to increase the number of items that can be imported from India.
“The ECC met on Friday and approved the addition of 12 goods to the positive list of items that can be imported from India,” a ministry official said.
Another official said the goods included machinery and raw materials for the leather and textile industries.
Both countries have been trying to boost their trade following a recent thaw in ties. Relations have improved since they resumed a dialogue in February that was derailed by an attack by militants in Mumbai in 2008.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh hailed progress in diplomatic ties and promised a“new chapter” in ties when they met on the sidelines of a Saarc summit in the Maldives on Thursday.
Lasting peace between the rivals is seen as essential to South Asian stability and to helping a troubled transition in Afghanistan as NATO-led combat forces plan their military withdrawal in 2014.
Last week, Pakistan said it would grant India most-favoured nation (MFN) status that would help normalise trade by ending restrictions. India gave MFN status to Pakistan in 1996.
Despite having a combined population of more than a billion, official bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $1.4 billion in 2009-10 while an estimated $3 billion unofficial trade is routed through third countries in the Gulf.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011.