Tensions between regional powers – Pakistan and India – will not dent the policy of linking regional countries through trade – a stance that a top government aide says will be reemphasised by the Defence Committee of cabinet in its upcoming meeting.
“Any abnormal situation in any of Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member country should not halt trade among and between the members,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the media here on Tuesday.
He was responding to a question whether boiling Pak-India tensions over alleged violation of a ceasefire agreement would scupper plans to enhance economic cooperation among Saarc member states – a regional club of eight countries.
Earlier, Dar had expressed the hope of increasing economic activities and removing trade barriers standing in the way of Saarc members.
Pakistan adhered to the principle that any abnormal situation should not halt Pak-India trade and this would be further clarified after the Defence Committee meeting on Thursday, he said.
“We understand the concerns arising due to tensions in relations but these will not have any implications for trade negotiations between Pakistan and Nepal,” Dar added.
He was speaking after a ceremony where minutes of discussions held at the Pak-Nepal Joint Economic Commission were signed. The sixth meeting of the commission was held after a gap of eight years.
To a question about allowing India access to Afghanistan via Pakistan in return for Pakistan getting access to landlocked Nepal through India, Dar said the issue was on the active list of agenda, but any decision would be taken in consultation with all stakeholders.
However, Pakistan is reluctant to allow such access that can undermine its geostrategic goals in the region amid allegations that India is using its consulates in Afghanistan to plan for sabotage activities in Pakistan.
Speaking about the outcome of the two-day JEC meeting, Dar said both the Saarc member countries agreed to enhance economic relations. Pakistan gave draft of Free Trade Agreement to Nepal and exchanged draft of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in alternative energy.
To a question, Dar said the issue of reducing air cargo fare and increasing the number of commercial flights would be taken up in the next meeting. Nepal requested Pakistan to reduce cargo fare and increase direct flights between the two sides.
The issue will be discussed in a meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade and also in Air Services Agreement (ASA) talks scheduled for September.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2013.