India-Pak commit to boost bilateral trade

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New Delhi, Mar 3 (UNI) Even as India today expressed the hope that the new government in Islamabad will take steps to implement the South Asian Free Trade Agreement to boost trade with New Delhi, Pakistan Commerce Secretary Asif Shah said bilateral trade would go up once the necessary infrastructure on Indian side of international border at Wagah-Attari is completed in next 18 months.

After presiding over the third meeting of Safta Ministerial Council, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters that India is looking towards the new government in Pakistan to take more positive steps in fulfilling the Safta agreement it has accepted but not implemented.

Mr Shah said Safta is at a juncture where it can only go forward and Pakistan is committed to it.

Bilateral trade between India-Pakistan in 2006-07 was less than two billion dollar. Shah said Pakistan's imports were 1.3-1.4 billion dollar and export between 350 to 390 million dollar.

The Pakistan Commerce Secretary said 17 cement plants in Pakistan have been certified by Bureau of Indian Standard and eight to nine of these plants had already exported 2.20 to 2.30 lakh tonnes of cement to India in the past six months ended January 31.

As against a weekly cement train earlier, now three trains are carrying the commodity from Pakistan to India every day and India has assured to increase the number to five trains a day in the next few weeks, he added.

India, Mr Shah said, has already acquired land for a Rs 150 crore project to set up the necessary infrastructure on its side in next one and a half year to boost bilateral trade. Pakistan, he said, has sizeable infrastructure on its side with space for parking 300 to 400 trucks and arrangements for customs and inspection of commodities.

Mr Shah said India has agreed to look into Pakistan's request to make temporary arrangements on its side untill the modern complex came up.

He said he is returning home via Wagah-Attari border and will have a look at facilities on both sides.

''I will prepare a report for my government and send a copy to India,'' he added.

The Pakistani official said once non-tariff barriers were removed and the necessary infrastructure was in place on either side of the Radcliff line, the trade is bound to go up.

However, he did not commit to India's Commerce Secretary G K Pillai's target of achieving 10 billion bilateral trade in next five years, saying it is a vision.

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