ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said it would re-start work on improving trade ties with arch-rival India when the two nations' foreign ministers meet in Islamabad next month.
Pakistan had pledged to grant India "Most Favoured Nation (MFN)" status by the end of 2012, meaning Indian exports would be treated the same as those from other nations, but so far has not done so.
India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1999.
"When the dialogue process resumes, we hope to build on the work already done in this regard," Pakistan's top foreign ministry bureaucrat Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told AFP at a weekly press briefing.
The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are set to meet in Islamabad on August 25 in the neighbouring countries' latest attempt at improving ties.
The proposed meeting, announced by Pakistan's foreign office on Wednesday, comes after Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi following the Hindu hardliner's inauguration in May.
Chaudhry said there were number of issues on both sides for normalising bilateral trade which included "making sure that vulnerable sectors are protected and the issue of the non-tariff barriers in India and the issue of imbalance of trade and certain other infrastructure-related issue."
MFN status will mean India can export 6,800 items to Pakistan, up from around 2,000 at present, and the countries aim to lift bilateral trade to $6 billion within three years, officials have said.
Trade between the two countries is presently around $2.5 billion, with Indian exports accounting for $1.75 billion, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A further $3 billion is thought to be channelled through Dubai, almost all of it in Pakistani imports, though the business community believes that if Pakistan grants India MFN status the imbalance could change.
India and Pakistan have directed their peace efforts towards "trade diplomacy" in a bid to build enough trust to tackle thornier issues that divide them, such as the Kashmir dispute.
Humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza
Further, the foreign secretary called for an end to the ongoing atrocities by Israel in Palestine.
Expressing deep concern and anguish over the killings of innocent and unarmed Palestinians including women and children, Chaudhry said that Pakistan supports the right of the Palestinians to create a Palestinian State.
“Pakistan, as you all know, has been a firm, consistent and vocal supporter of Palestinian cause,” he said.
The foreign secretary further said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself condemned the Israeli aggression and the genocide it is committing and expressed solidarity of the people of Pakistan with the Palestinians.
Talking about the United Nations Security Council in Geneva that took place on July 23, Chaudhry said that Pakistan called for an end to hostilities and a revival of peace talks.
“We also called on the Security Council to act by adopting a resolution that would call for an immediate and an unconditional ceasefire, halt Israeli air, ground and naval offensive, and remove Israeli forces from Gaza,” said Chaudhry.
According to the statement, Pakistan is actively working with other countries to secure humanitarian access to those injured and stranded in shelters in Gaza.
He added that at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pakistan on behalf of the OIC spearheaded a resolution, which has been adopted by the Council. Chaudhry emphasised that it is important that the blockade of Gaza is ended, its border opened and Palestinian prisoners released.
"Our efforts at the diplomatic and international domains, including UN Security Council, UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights OIC, NAM, and all other related forum will continue until the ongoing atrocities in Palestine are ended," he said.
Chaudhry said that the formation an independent Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Sharif as its capital will lead to peace and stability in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced Friday as a day of mourning to show solidarity with people of Gaza, his office said in a statement.
"Moreover, the prime minister has ordered to contribute one million dollars in UN flash appeal for Gaza Palestinians," it said.
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