New Delhi: Pakistan granted India the most-favoured nation (MFN) status on Wednesday, a breakthrough that may help boost bilateral trade, but made it clear that the move would not in any way affect its stand on the Kashmir issue.
“After a lengthy discussion and a briefing by the commerce secretary, the cabinet unanimously approved the commerce ministry’s summary to grant most-favoured nation status to India,” information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told a news conference.
The move by Pakistan comes ahead of the 10-11 November meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations in the Maldives, where the prime ministers of the two countries are expected to meet. India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. Trade between the two nations stood at $2.6 billion in the year ended 31 March.
All stakeholders in Pakistan, including the military, were “on board” for the decision to grant MFN status to India, Awan said.
“The decision will lead to economic benefits and it is in the national interest,” she said.
Welcoming the move, Indian commerce minister Anand Sharma said it will be beneficial for the both countries. “It opens up new pathways of elevating our economic engagement to a much higher level. We are clear that economic engagements, removing the barriers to trade and also facilitating land transportation would help the region. Eventually, the economic activity, industrial activity will bring in prosperity and stability,” he said.
Confederation of Indian Industry director general Chandrajit Banerjee said the move will boost bilateral trade. “It will also pave the way for economic integration of South Asia. The MFN status will substantially reduce illegal and third-country trade with the potential of raising official bilateral trade to $8 billion in less than five years,” Banerjee said, adding that road blocks such as stringent visa rules, non-tariff barriers, difficulty in communication and opening of more trade routes such as Wagah still needs to be addressed.