Asserting that his government was committed to following investor-friendly policies towards India, Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has asked the Water and Power Minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif to undertake a visit to India and explore the potential areas of joint economic cooperation between the two nations.
An assurance to this effect was given by the Prime Minister to the India-Pakistan Joint Business Council delegation that met him on June 29 after their first ever meeting in Islamabad. Mr. Sharif told the delegation that he had been pursuing a policy of friendship and cooperation with India during its previous stints in power and the same policy of amity would be followed to promote peace and prosperity in the region. He said it has always been his endeavour to bring the people of the two South Asian countries closer to each other, so that they could benefit from each other’s experiences. “It is reassuring that both sides are sitting together and talking to each other,’’ the Pakistan Prime Minister told the delegation.
Mr. Sharif said, to take this dialogue and cooperation forward, Mr. Asif would be soon visiting India and explore potential areas of cooperation between the two nations. “Pakistan is faced with acute power shortage and any assistance in the power sector would help us in addressing the issue,’’ he told the Indian delegation headed by S.K. Munjal of the Hero Group and Vikramjit Singh Sahney of Sun Group. Both sides discussed opportunities for cooperation in the field of medical science, higher education and technical/vocational training.
Both sides also decided to draw up a roadmap to address the various issues and concerns including hurdles and work out the best possible solutions to give a fillip to trade and business on both sides of the borders. In fact, it is learnt that the Indian delegation reassured the Pakistan establishment, that opening up of the borders including land route for trade would not lead to flooding of markets with Indian goods as India was willing to lower the tariff lines for Pakistan goods within four months of an agreement and could wait for the same from Pakistan side for five years.
The issue of grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) also came up for discussion where the Indian side was of the view that MFN was a commitment made by Pakistan and it should now fast track this process. Pakistan had committed to provide MFN status to India by December 2012 but due to internal pressure and elections in Pakistan, the issue was put in the backburner. Both sides decided to set up various task forces to work out critical issues and trade matters and then put the same before the two governments for quick resolution and implementation.
Keywords: Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, India-Pakistan relations, investor-friendly policies, India-Pakistan Joint Business Council delegation, Most Favoured Nation