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India forms new SA trade bloc sans Pak

25 December 2006

India forms new SA trade bloc sans Pak

Islamabad, Dec 25 (ANI): In what is being described as a success for India and a "failure and punishment for Pakistan" on the economic diplomacy front, India has formed a regional trading bloc excluding Islamabad, and including all the SAFTA members, besides Thailand.

India quietly created the new trading bloc to "punish" Pakistan for not coming forth positively on trade under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), said a senior Pakistani government official here last evening.

He added that after Islamabad denied New Delhi an equal treatment in trade under SAFTA, India discreetly managed to create another regional trading bloc in South Asia comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Six SAARC countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka - are included as members while Pakistan has been left out of the bloc which is being termed success of India and "failure of Pakistan" on the economic diplomacy front, The News quoted the unidentified official as saying.

The regional trading bloc - BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) - also includes Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives.

According to the documents available with The News, the eight countries have also signed the framework agreement for a BIMST-EC free trade area.

According to the paper, ironically enough, Pakistan’s economic managers are not aware of the shocking developments, and some officials of the Ministry of Commerce, particularly Joint Secretary of FT Wing Shahid Bashir, are paying no heed to it. Bashir, who is responsible for FTAs and PTAs with other countries and regional bloc, according to the official, seems not worried about Pakistan’s exclusion from the BIMST-EC saying it would not affect the country.

When contacted, Commerce Secretary Syed Asif Shah said he didn’t know about the development, so he is unable to offer any comment on the issue. Asked as to why Pakistan has not become a member of the new regional trading bloc, he said he didn’t know.

He said: "Trade under Safta has virtually come to a standstill as Pakistan is not extending the tariff concessions to India that it is extending to other countries. This has led India to come up with the new trading bloc." (ANI)

 source: Daily India