High non-tariff barrier from Pakistan affecting trade: India

New Delhi: India on Thursday said non-tariff barrier imposed by Pakistan has been badly affecting bilateral trade, asserting Islamabad needs to act constructively towards regional connectivity initiatives to spur economic growth in South Asia.

“As far as we are concerned there are high non-tariff barrier (NTB) in the region, not on Pakistan but from it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

He was asked whether Pakistan was referring to India when it talked about NTBs in the region during visit of World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo to Islamabad.

“Pakistan does not allow movement of all importable items from India through Wagah. In fact, it allows only 138 items through Wagah. This is the biggest NTB for thousands of Indian tariff lines which have to be routed through Karachi, raising costs, including for consumers in Pakistan.

“Moreover, the fact that Pakistan has not extended MFN status to India even after lapse of close to twenty years since India unilaterally did so, is not in keeping with WTO norms,” said Swarup.

Referring to Pakistan apprising Azevedo about investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said it is a two-country initiative, part of which is proposed on Indian territory under Pakistan’s “illegal occupation”.

“Our views in this regard are well-known. Pakistan is a member of SAARC and as such it is expected to contribute constructively to regional connectivity initiatives, including those which it did not support in the last SAARC Summit,” he said.

Asked about Afghan government signing a pact with Hezb-e-Islami, a militant group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Swarup said India welcomes efforts to bring lasting peace to that country.

“India welcome developments that contribute to efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, which are Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and are in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace and stability in their country.

“We hope that such developments will encourage others to also give up violence and join the peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan,” he said.

Asked to comment on how India sees appointment of Hibatullah Akhundzada as Taliban’s new leader, Swarup said “We have no views on the internal processes within Taliban.

“However, as I have said already, we support all efforts that contribute to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and help reducing violence and terrorism inflicted on the people of Afghanistan.”

About the issue of payment of oil dues to Iran, Swarup said some part payment has already been made and remaining amount will be paid once banking channels are opened and they accept Euro.

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran, Indian refiners have paid part of the USD 6.4 billion owed to Iran for crude oil imports.

On ban imposed on Indians wanting to travel to Libya, the MEA Spokesperson said the strict measure has been taken considering the fragile security situation in that country.

He said around 1,500 Indians are still there and appealed them to return immediately. He said 18 travel advisories were issued by the government asking people not to visit Libya before announcing the ban.

Swarup said some Indians who were evacuated from Libya at government’s cost had returned to that country.