Benazir death would affect trade talks with Pak:Minister

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Bangalore, Dec 28 (UNI) Trade talks between India and Pakistan will be affected following assasination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto yesterday, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said today.

Speaking to newspersons after releasing the new Arabica coffee plant variety 'Chandragiri' developed by the Coffee Board here, he said the trade talks, which were at a crucial stage, was to resume during February or March next year, but the assassination and uncertainty over holding of general elections in January could cast a shadow on bilateral trade talks.

Mr Jairam said the bilateral trade between the two countries was to the tune of US Dollar four billion. ''Officially India was exporting US Dollar one billion worth of goods to Pakistan, while 'unofficial' trade that takes place via Dubai was to the tune of US Dollar two billion per annum,'' he added.

The minister said Pakistan was the second biggest importer of tea in the world and India had exported 15 million kg out of Pakistan's total import of 140 million kg. We want to scale this up to 40 million kg in two years, he added.

He said the main export from Pakistan to India was cement. In the aftermath of Benazir's killing, the cement supply may get hit, he added.

The minister was programmed to travel to Pakistan in March for trade talks but now it would depend on holding of elections. ''If the election is held, then I would be going, if not there will be some amount of uncertainty,'' he said.

Mr Jairam said India had made a commitment to spend Rs 75 crore to improve infrastructure facilities at Wagah border in Punjab from both ends. It had been decided to provide infrastructure facilities for movement of container as well as rail traffic, he added.


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