India and Pakistan to hold first trade negotiations

India-Pakistan flags
Islamabad, April 27: India and Pakistan will hold their first trade negotiations in over two years here on Wednesday, April 27, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani set the tone for the talks by saying today that his country wanted "constructive engagement" with India.

Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar arrived in Lahore with an official delegation today for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Zafar Mahmood in Islamabad during April 27-28.

Following delegation-level talks tomorrow, the two sides are expected to issue a joint statement on Thursday.

During a meeting with Commerce Secretary Mahmood and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, Gilani backed "constructive engagement" with India, saying Islamabad wants to forge bilateral relations that are based on "mutual interest and mutual respect".

Gilani also asked the Commerce Secretary to take on board all stakeholders for establishing "mutually beneficial trade relations with India".

"Constructive engagement with India is essential so that both the countries could move towards the goal of establishing good neighbourly relations," Gilani said.

Pakistan's Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim told the media after a meeting with Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal that the agenda for the upcoming talks would be open and all issues, including India's offer to sell oil and electricity, would be discussed by the secretaries.

Indian officials said the talks would focus on better coordination and establishing systems that would boost bilateral trade in compliance with multi-lateral and regional obligations like the South Asian Free Trade Area pact.

"The aim will be to open up trade and move it to a firmer footing," said an official who did not want to be named.

Pakistan's concerns, including an incorrect perception that India is imposing Pakistan-specific barriers, were likely to figure in the talks, the officials said. 


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