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Safta: Foreign ministers refer to council

Last updated on: August 02, 2006 14:33 IST

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation foreign ministers decided to refer to the group's Council of Commerce Ministers on Wednesday on India's complaint that Pakistan was not implementing the South Asia Free Trade Agreement  in letter and spirit.

The decision by the foreign ministerial meeting of the seven-nation regional grouping was received positively by the Indian side.

"We raised this issue not because it is India-Pakistan dispute. It is affecting the SAARC process as well as all the member countries," Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed told reporters at the end of the meeting.

He said when a country "deviates from the agreement and is not fulfilling obligations it ought to fulfill, naturally it is a matter to be resolved by SAARC Council of Commerce Ministers. So that is why it has been referred to it by consensus."

The Indo-Pak dispute over SAFTA implementation dominated the Foreign Ministerial meeting after New Delhi raised its objections to Islamabad's effort to limit trade under SAFTA.

India said Pakistan attaching conditionalities to trade with it under SAFTA was against the essence of the Agreement and "contradict the commitment" made by the leaders at the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka in November last.

Safta: Implementation at ministers' meet

"Every contracting state has certain obligations and if one state is not fulfilling, it will definitely be negation of the entire agreement," Ahamed said.

Ahamed expressed surprise over Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's contention that the July 1 notification issued by Islamabad was not India specific.

"The notification itself says goods from India," Ahmed said referring to the note of the Pakistan commerce ministry regarding tariff concessions extended under it to SAARC countries. The notification limits SAFTA tariff concessions for India to items on the exisiting bilateral positive list.

"I don't know why he said it," he added.     

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said that the SAARC Foreign Ministerial conference's "does not fully satisfy (India), but we work by consensus."

He, however, sounded satisfied by the fact that the matter should be considered at ministerial level and outcome should be reported before the next meeting of SAARC foreign ministers.

The SAARC foreign ministerial conference is to be held before the next summit, expected early next year in New Delhi.

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Ajay Kaul in Dhaka
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