Pakistan on Thursday said a consensus is being built among all stakeholders to strike a deal on liberalised trade with India, underlining that bilateral ties should move forward “holistically and not in bits and pieces”.
A crucial cabinet meeting, set to discuss and approve the long-pending Non Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to India last Friday, was put off at the last moment.
The Foreign Office denied it wants its own pound of flesh and is pushing for resumption of composite dialogue before granting NDMA status to India.
“We have not said that trade has linkages. We have not said that if progress does not happen on this, we will not do trade. If trade benefits us then why not but yes, realistically, we have to have a movement on all issues so that this process, this relationship moves forward in a positive direction,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told PTI in an interview here.
She said the bilateral ties have to move forward “holistically, not in bits and pieces where one incident or
one change can upset everything. You have to make this process durable, you have to make this process sustainable”.
“People-to-people contact being limited, taking place off and on. One working group meeting and discussing this and that but not a whole integrated approach to relationship. That is needed because that makes it durable, that makes it sustainable.
“Obviously, some issues would move faster and some won’t move that fast,” Aslam said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said the decision of granting NDMA status to India was put off due to “lack of consensus”.
“We also deferred this due to the elections in India because we did not want to favour a single political party in India,” he said during his recent visit to The Hague.
Commerce Minister Ghulam Dastagir echoed similar thoughts in Lahore.
The Foreign Office in Islamabad has for quite some time advised the government that it would not be prudent for Pakistan to give such a major political concession to the present Indian government “which is on its way out, and instead give this concession to the incoming one”.
The prime minister finally agreed, though initially he opposed this advice, The News daily reported, citing
Asked if Foreign Office has decided Pakistan will only sign trade agreement with the new government in New Delhi, Aslam said, “new government, old government is India’s internal affairs. As I told you, that process is continuing (here)”.
She argued the process could have been expedited since there was an understanding both countries came to on the sidelines of the SAARC business conclave in January.
“There was an understanding. When that was committed in writing, some of the things that were related to Pakistan’s concerns and were agreed to did not figure in the written form.
“So there were clarifications, then response and then further continued…