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Urge to draw distinct line between economics and politics
Chamber leaders concerned over tagging of Kashmir issue with Safta ratification
Govinda Shil
1/18/2006
 

          Country's chamber leaders have expressed concerns over tagging ratification of free trade with dialogue on Kashmir by Pakistan. This, they said, might retard implementation of the much-awaited South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta).
They urged the government to take the issue to Safta secretariat for immediate settlement.
According to the reports carried in a section of Pakistani newspapers, Pakistan is likely to stay away from the Safta to avoid its political fallout on the country's principled stand on Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
The ratification of the agreement by Islamabad would mean that Pakistan has opened its border for all kinds of tradable items with all SAARC member countries, including India, according to Pakistani daily Dawn.
In a letter to the Secretariat of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which is the parent body of Safta, Pakistan said Tuesday it did not reject ratification of Safta. It said the approval of Safta was under consideration of its cabinet, according to information gathered in Dhaka, Tuesday.
Out of the seven SAARC member countries, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan have already ratified the treaty.
"We urge the government to take necessary steps to facilitate Safta implementation," said Mir Nasir Hossain, president of the country's apex trade body, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
"I am afraid that Safta execution would face uncertainty if Pakistan drags the issue," Hossain said, urging the government to take initiative to resolve the deadlock.
Many others said they had waited so long to see an effective SAARC but, again, black clouds have surrounded the regional grouping.
"We waited 20 years …now we want an immediate implementation of Safta," said MA Momen, newly elected president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
It looks like, said Momen, "We have to wait and see again," expressing his frustration.
A former president of Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA) Golam Mostafa said Pakistan should not have related Safta to the Kashmir issue, which has remained unsolved for decades.
He said political issue must be kept aside for meaningful execution of economic and trade programmes.
Citing examples of the European Union, where political differences still persist, Mostafa said those nations have successfully drawn a line between economics and politics.
Mostafa, however, felt that India should be more welcoming about slashing its non-tariff barriers erected against imports from smaller neighbouring countries.
"If we want to learn something from the EU, or even from the ASEAN, we must act responsibly," the former BFFEA leader said.
With the coming into force of Safta agreement, the total intra-regional trade among the SAARC countries could double to US$ 14 billion by 2010 from the current $7.0 billion, according to an estimate.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) estimates that India's trade with SAARC countries can touch Rs. 500 billion by 2010 and Rs. 1000 billion by 2015 from the present Rs.250 billion.

 

 
 

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