New Delhi, Dec 26: After the meeting of the India and Pakistan director generals of military operations after 14 years, the commerce secretaries of both countries are set to meet next month – in another major step towards normalization of relations between the two neighbours.
Pakistan has proposed two sets of dates in the middle of January for their commerce secretaries to meet. India has yet to get back on the proposal, an informed source told IANS.
The commerce secretaries of both sides had last met in September 2012.
Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan is also visiting India from Jan 16-18 for a SAARC business meeting and is to meet Commerce Minister Anand Sharma for bilateral talks, the sources said.
On Dec 24, the Indian and Pakistani director generals military operations (DGMOs) had met after a gap of 14 years at Wagah on the Pakistani side of the border in Punjab to work out a mechanism to ease tension along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
The DGMOs meeting had been decided on by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their New York meeting on Sep 29.
On Dec 25, the Pakistan Rangers and India’s Border Security Force met to discuss ways to counter illegal border crossing and smuggling as part of bi-annual talks.
The steps toward normalisation follow within days of the visit to India by Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had come as a special envoy earlier this month.
Shahbaz Sharif had in his “frank” talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had dwelt on the “desire to move forward on bilateral relations”, he had said in an interview.
During the commerce secretary-level talks and the meeting between their ministers, India would raise the issue of Pakistan not having granted India the status of Most Favoured Nation, which India has already granted in 1996.
Pakistan would be asking India to reduce non-tariff barriers for Pakistani products to provide a level playing field and more access to Indian markets as well as a liberalized visa regime for Pakistani businessmen, said the sources.
The 30-40 percent taxes on Pakistani products in India acts as a deterrent to boosting trade, the sources added.