NEW DELHI - India’s trade minister has put off a visit to Pakistan to expand commercial ties as the two countries make slow progress on resolving key issues that have kept trade between the neighbors far below potential.

Trade Minister Anand Sharma was due to travel to Pakistan this week to build on talks last month when the two sides agreed to increase the movement of trucks and containers at their main border crossing.

Sharma had deferred the trip, trade secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters. He didn’t give a reason, but officials have in the past said that India wanted Pakistan to formally announce grant of Most Favoured Nation status that it had agreed to years ago.

“The minister has deferred his visit to Pakistan,” Indian Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters in New Delhi.

When asked whether the ministry has finalised the new dates for Sharma’s visit, Kher said: “We will decide that may be after the parliament session”.

The minister was scheduled to visit Pakistan to inaugurate the ‘India Show’ in Lahore on February 14. He was also supposed to have bilateral meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Khurram Dastagir Khan the next day in Islamabad.

According to an Indian official, Pakistan has not yet responded to the letter sent by the commerce ministry in which India has demanded expeditious implementation of issues agreed upon by the two countries.

The three main agreed proposals are allowing trade of all goods through Wagha-Attari border, dismantling of the negative list of 1,209 items and bringing down the sensitive list of items to 100 under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) over a period of five years.

At present, only 137 items can be traded through Attari- Wagha land border. Pakistan had already missed the deadline to eliminate the negative list.

Dismantling of the list would automatically lead to grant of Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to India, though India for long has insisted on Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. Under SAFTA, India has also agreed to reduce its sensitive list of items to 100 from 614 in one year. However, the three-day ‘India Show’, which is being planned by industry body FICCI, will be held as planned.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at $2.6 billion in 2012-13.

India’s main exports to Pakistan include sugar, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its imports comprise mineral and fuels, among others.



Monitoring Desk adds: India and Pakistan have agreed to resume trade across the LoC after officials from foreign ministries of the two sides decided to resolve the issue, reported Indian Express on Tuesday.

Trade across the LoC was disrupted last month after officials recovered 114 kilogram brown sugar from a truck coming from Pakistan occupied Kashmir at Sala-mabad Trade Centre.

Officials had held four rounds of talks at Kaman Post to break the deadlock, but Pakistan insisting on release of the driver remained a sticky issue. It is, however, not clear whether the arrested Pakistani driver will be released. After the arrest, trade across the LoC was suspended from Uri and Poonch.

Officials of Trade Facilitation Centre Salamabad received a communication from the Indian External Affairs Ministry directing to send 48 Pakistani drivers along with trucks stuck in Uri, through the Kaman post. It also sought return of 27 Kashmiri drivers stuck in Azad Kashmir.