New Delhi: Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan is visiting India Jan 16-18 for a SAARC business event and would meet Commerce Minister Anand Sharma for bilateral talks.

Ahead of their meeting on the sidelines of the 5th South Asian Business Leaders Conclave (SBLC), the commerce secretaries of the two sides would be meeting.

Pakistan had requested for a meeting of the commerce secretaries and had forwarded two sets of dates last month. The commerce secretaries of the two countries had last met in September 2012.

However, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a briefing that the meeting of the commerce ministers and the commerce secretaries “possibly can’t be construed as resumption of the dialogue process”.

The talks between the commerce ministers and secretaries follows the visit to India last month by Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had come as a special envoy.

The spokesperson said the two sides would be following up on discussions initiated during the visit of Shahbaz Sharif.

“The Pakistani authorities are willing to take substantive steps to show they are serious in moving ahead with the process of normalisation of trade. Therefore, they have requested a meeting of commerce secretaries earlier prior to the meeting of ministers, which has been agreed to,” he said.

A 60-member delegation from Pakistan will be attending the 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave in New Delhi, which has the theme “The South Asia Century: Progressing Towards Regional Integration”.

Akbaruddin said India is looking forward to Pakistan implementing the “sequential roadmap” agreed to at the 2012 commerce secretaries meeting.

The last meeting related to step-by-step movement, which included full liberalisation of trade along the Attari-Wagah border post.

“We have always remained hopeful that this sequential roadmap will be implemented with Pakistan taking the first step, and we will see how it pans out in the coming meeting,” he added.

India is to raise the issue of Pakistan not having granted it the status of Most Favoured Nation, which India has already granted in 1996.

Pakistan is expected to ask 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.

The move comes after the Dec 24 meeting between Indian and Pakistani director generals military operations (DGMOs) 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 SAARC conclave is being organised in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the commerce and industry ministry in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Stifung Fur die Freiheit, a German foundation for liberal politics with offices in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Source: IANS