India expects positive Pakistan decision on MFN

November 5th, 2011 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Islamabad, Nov 5 (IANS) India Saturday hoped Pakistan’s decision to grant MFN status to it will not take long to become operational despite the Pakistan prime minister’s conflicting remark that the cabinet had only given “its approval in principle” to move forward negotiations on the issue.

“There is no time frame. We expect it will not take very long (to become operational),” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters here when asked about confusing statements emanating from the Pakistan government on the issue of Islamabad granting Most Favoured Nation status to New Delhi that involves enlarging the basket of goods India can export to Pakistan.

Mathai stressed that, according to the information available through the Pakistan government, the Pakistan cabinet has approved the process of normalization of trade relations of which MFN is a part.

Mathai also read out the statement by Pakistan commerce ministry after the cabinet meeting which said, “It has the mandate to take forward the process of normalisation of trade relations between India and Pakistan, which would culminate in the observance of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle in its true spirit.”

“The actual implementation would be a culmination of the normalization process which could take some time,” he said, quoting the commerce ministry’s statement.

Mathai also added that Pakistan’s MFN to India will have positive impact on intra-region trade in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

After a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Pakistan Information Minister Firdous Awan had announced that it has been decided “unanimously” to grant MFN status to India. India had given Pakistan MFN status way back in 1996.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday welcomed it. “Better late than never. I welcome it,” he had said.

However, since Islamabad’s announcement there has been a spate of conflicting statements over the MFN, a politically sensitive issue which is being opposed by some influential right-wing sections in Pakistan which contend that trade relations with India should not be normalised till the Kashmir issue is resolved.

On Friday night, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani complicated the issue. “The cabinet has only given its approval in principle to move forward on the issue (of MFN) and permitted the Ministry of Commerce, which is actively engaged in trade talks with New Delhi, to negotiate with it trade-related issues,” Gilani told reporters in Lahore.

“We will give it the go-ahead if the situation is quite favourable and in the national interest. Otherwise, proceedings on it would be withheld,” Gilani said, according to some reports in Pakistani media.

India is hoping that there will be greater clarity on the MFN issue when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Maldives next week. The meeting is expected to take place Friday (Nov 11).

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