‘India, Pakistan trade needs environment free from terror, violence’

New Delhi, Jan 22: India is ready to forge ahead in boosting with Pakistan, but it has to be done in an environment free from terror and violence, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said here Wednesday.

In her valedictory address at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) 2nd Annual Conference, the foreign secretary also said that Pakistan’s complaint about non-tariff barriers in India hampering bilateral trade “do not stand up to close scrutiny”.

Speaking on the subject, ‘Normalising India-Pakistan Trade’, the foreign secretary said “India remains ready to move ahead on the bilateral trade agenda. However it also needs to be understood that a necessary pre-requisite for dynamic economic activity between our two countries, is an environment free from terror and violence. Trade and terrorism are incompatible.”

“It is our hope that we can at some point reach this objective. The question is when? Time will tell.”

She said the “challenge is to create an environment where we can focus on the trade and the economic agenda, and work towards growing connectivity and linkages between our two economies.”

Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s emphasis on building “an economically vibrant and progressive South Asia, built on a strong foundation of normal, peaceful and friendly ties”, she said that economic progress and friendly ties are interlinked.

Singh pointed out that India and Pakistan have “some way to go” before achieving any of the points “or to the point where we can actually have a situation on the ground of normalised trade relations”.

While significant progress has been made in enhancing trade with other South Asian neighbours, the exception has been Pakistan “for a variety of reasons, much of it hostage to political issues between our two countries which are a legacy of our history and the tragic events surrounding partition”.

The foreign secretary said the recent announcements made by their two commerce ministers to accelerate trade normalisation before the end of February 2014 are welcome developments. She said the decision to keep Wagah-Attari Land Customs Station open on all seven days of the week, and permit containerisation of trade across Attari-Wagah to Lahore and Amritsar are positive developments. “We do hope that all these measures will be realised rapidly without further delays.”

IANS