Dampening hopes of economic ties receiving a boost during President Pervez Musharraf's visit, Pakistan has ruled out granting the Most Favoured Nation status to India and said that bilateral trade was linked to 'substantial political dialogue.'
"Trade with India is linked to politics. We will discuss about trade if there is substantial political dialogue with India," said Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan, who would accompany the President to his three-day India visit from Saturday.
Trade talks with India would continue only as long as the political dialogue continues, Khan, who has been asked by Musharraf himself to cut short his visit to the United States and join the delegation, was quoted as saying by local daily Dawn.
In the past, Khan used to link the trade opening up with India to progress on resolution of Kashmir issue. However in his latest remarks, he did not make any reference to Kashmir.
Khan also ruled out Pakistan granting MFN status to India, saying that Islamabad could not do that right away as it would further tilt the balance in favour of India.
He said already India's trade with Pakistan has doubled even though Islamabad traded with New Delhi through a positive list of 780 items and the rest of the items fell in negative category."The trade balance is hugely in favour of India," Khan said. Pakistan had asked India to review its tariff and non-tariff barriers if New Delhi wanted to expand trade links.