Islamabad: Putting the onus on India, Pakistan today said failure to provide clarity on certain issues raised by it regarding bilateral trade led to the cancellation of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to Lahore.
“We agreed on certain things, certain timelines. There were some Pakistani concerns that were raised when the two Commerce Ministers met and there were some Indian concerns,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.
“But when that communication arrived (from India), it somehow skipped the part that Pakistan was more interested in. So we sought a clarification…And I think the visit was cancelled because we still did not have clarity on how to proceed forward,” she said.
The two sides had agreed “on a number of measures and some timelines to achieve those”, she told a weekly news briefing.
Aslam said there was no delay on Pakistan’s part that led to the cancellation of Sharma’s visit to Lahore for a trade show on Indian products beginning tomorrow. Islamabad is still to receive a clarification from New Delhi about decisions that were made at the meeting of Commerce Ministers last month.
Indian officials had said in New Delhi that Pakistan had not responded to a letter sent by the Commerce Ministry that sought expeditious implementation of issues agreed on by the two sides. They had cited this as the reason for the cancellation of Sharma’s visit.
Three key proposals reportedly agreed on by the two sides are allowing trade of all goods through the Wagah-Attari land border, dismantling the negative list that bars trade in 1,209 items and reducing the sensitive list under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement to 100 items over five years.
Currently, only 137 items can be traded through Attari-Wagah.
Pakistan has missed the December 2012 deadline to eliminate the negative list and give India Most Favoured Nation (MFN)-status. Pakistan has now said it intends to give Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to India.
Dismantling the negative list would automatically lead to grant of NDMA, though India has insisted for long on MFN-status.
Under SAFTA, India has agreed to reduce its sensitive list to 100 items from 614 in one year.
Aslam further said both sides had agreed to resume cross-LoC trade. This trade is not between Pakistan and India, but between the two sides of Kashmir, she said.
“We have decided to open trade because it is for Kashmiris, it is for their interaction and benefits and we decided that Pakistan should not be the one creating any impediment. We do hope that similar gestures would be visible from the other side,” Aslam said.
Trade was suspended after Indian authorities recently detained a driver from the Pakistani side on charges of trafficking narcotics.
Aslam said India has proposed that both countries should hold the meeting of Working Group on cross-LoC trade, which will take place in New Delhi later this month.
“We do hope that in this meeting, we will be able to work out and agree on some arrangement to improve systems on the LoC to improve monitoring of cargo so that any incident of this nature does not happen in the future,” she said.
There is willingness on both sides to facilitate the resumption of cross-LoC trade and to work out systems so that it moves smoothly, she said.