New Delhi: Ahead of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit, India on 25 March hoped Pakistan fulfills its commitment with regard to the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) and expressed readiness to consider some “unilateral” steps to address certain concerns of Islamabad to see operationalization of the regional trading agreement.
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee also stressed the criticality of inter-connectivity among all the eight member countries of Saarc in terms of road access and energy to raise the volume of trade to the real potential of the region.
“On Safta, there is a problem with Pakistan,” he said. The Saarc summit will take place here on 3 and 4 April.
He said Pakistan has been insisting that its trade with India is “not free” and is based on the ‘positive list’ of goods. Islamabad has expressed readiness to improve it and expanded the list to 1,078 items, by adding 300 items.
“Let us examine the number of items they have given. Or whether we can do something unilaterally, irrespective of what they do,” Mukherjee said.
Safta, which envisages free trade among Saarc countries, was ratified on 1 January last year and came into effect on 1 July.
Pakistan has, however, refused to implement it despite ratifying it.
“Pakistan has been raising certain non-tariff issues, which we will try to address,” Mukherjee said.