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Monday, May 11, 2009

AfPak MoU on transit trade: Pak denies concessions to India

Rezaul H Laskar/PTI / Islamabad May 7, 2009, 16:23 IST
Pakistan today rejected the impression that it had granted "concessions" to India by signing a pact with Afghanistan to conclude a new transit trade agreement by the end of this year.
"I don't know who has given concessions," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a weekly news briefing in response to a question about the memorandum of understanding signed yesterday between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Reports have said that once the new transit trade agreement is concluded, it will allow India to use the route between the Wagah land border and Pakistan's Khyber tribal region for trade with Afghanistan.
However, Basit said the MoU only relates to negotiations between Pakistan and Afghanistan on devising a new arrangement to replace the existing transit trade agreement. The MoU commits the two countries to concluding talks by the end of this year and "all issues will be taken care of when the negotiations begin," he said.
Pakistan's "engagement with India for a transit route to Afghanistan is a separate issue" and will be discussed bilaterally, Basit said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday said the MoU commits Pakistan and Afghanistan "to achieving a trade transit agreement by the end of the year, which we believe will have great economic benefits for both peoples".
Clinton also said the agreement had been "under discussion for 43 years without resolution". She described the MoU as "an important milestone" in efforts by the two countries to generate foreign investment, economic growth and trade opportunities.
Though India is not mentioned in the MoU, reports said it would be the main beneficiary of a transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan as New Delhi is one of Kabul's major trade partners.
India and Afghanistan have for long been making efforts to get Pakistan to open its land routes for transit trade between the two countries.

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