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Safta: Pak failure hindered Saarc chance

January 19, 2007 17:17 IST
Holding Pakistan responsible for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation's 'underperformance', India has said the bloc was nowhere near achieving its potential due to Islamabad's reluctance to extend the benefits of the South Asian Free Trade Area agreement to New Delhi.

"The reason why Saarc has not met its full potential precisely because hesitation from Pakistan in granting to India the sort of regime that (is due) under Saarc," Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal told reporters at the South Asian Free Media Association on Thursday.

Without directly referring to Pakistan's reluctance to grant the most favoured nation, status to India, Pal said the failure to extend Safta benefits by Pakistan to India is a 'case in point' why Saarc has not achieved
its potential.

Because of the restriction across the board the Saarc was unable to fulfil its potential. "It is nowhere close to fulfil its potential," he said, adding this was the reason why Saarc has 'underperformed' compared to other regional blocs.

Pakistan has declined to implement Safta in toto to India linking it to the resolution of political problems like Kashmir. While Pakistan traded with a list of negative items with other members of Saarc, it continued to trade with India with a 'positive' list of 1,077 items.

The next Saarc meeting of commerce ministers was expected to take the issue.

In his speech, Pal said India and Pakistan should look to cooperate in areas like public health even while trying to resolve political differences.
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