India today asserted that it is committed to the roadmap for normalisation of bilateral trade with Pakistan as outlined in the agreement arrived at between commerce secretaries of the two countries in September 2012.
Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma conveyed this to the Pakistan side at a meeting with Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province and Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistan's minister of state for commerce, textile and privatisation, today.
Essentially this involves Pakistan side removing its restrictions on trade by the land route (Attari, Wagah ICP), as also imparting full non-discriminatory trade access by removing its balance 1,209 tariff lines of its current negative list of items importable from India.
Once these agreed steps are taken, Sharma reiterated that India would give enhanced preferential trade access to Pakistan by bringing down its SAFTA sensitive list from 614 tariff lines to 100 tariff lines.
The Pakistan side would also have, in a phased manner over five years, reduce its SAFTA sensitive list for India to 100 tariff lines.
It was also agreed that with the growing volume of trade by the land route the working hours at Attari/ Wagah can be further enhanced and even contemplated for 24/7 operating conditions, the details of which would be discussed at an appropriate time between the commerce secretaries of both countries.
Sharma offered that to debottleneck congestion at Attari/Wagah, containerised traffic could be accepted with appropriate security arrangements at customs bonded warehouses at Amritsar on the Indian side and Lahore on the Pakistan side. This suggestion was welcomed by the Pakistani side.
Both sides also agreed that ongoing technical talks for electricity transmission line and bilateral trade of power/gas between Indian and Pakistan need to be revitalised, so that there is tangible progress for actual flow of gas and power between both countries.
Dastgir would be meeting with Sharma again in January 2014 as part of the initiatives of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and SAARC business delegations.
The Pakistan side suggested that even prior to this meeting, appropriate official level talks could be initiated to set the ground for rapid momentum on the trade normalisation roadmap.
Sharif welcomed the 'India Show' that has been planned in Lahore in February 2014 and invited Sharma to visit Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Joint Business Council meetings have also been scheduled in Pakistan in January and February 2014 even as both sides continue engagements between business communities and pave the way for deeper bilateral economic cooperation, including opening of bank branches on reciprocal basis which would help facilitate bilateral trade.
Both sides see enhanced economic engagement as a more stable foundation for bilateral peace and prosperity for the people of both countries.