India, Pakistan look to implement trade deal

NEW DELHI: Top officials from India and Pakistan began talks on Monday to flesh out an agreement on opening up trade between the countries, part of a warming of ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistan's Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood met his Indian counterpart Rahul Khullar at the start of the two-day talks in New Delhi aimed at implementing a deal to double annual trade in the next three years to $6 billion.

The visit followed Pakistan's decision on November 2 to grant "most favoured nation" (MFN) status to India, reciprocating a move made by India to Pakistan in 1996.

"We have to fully normalise our relationship and you cannot fully normalise the trade relationship without invoking the MFN principle (and) so we will be working on that," Mahmood told reporters after reaching New Delhi on Saturday.

The status will remove discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs that stand as barriers to exports between the South Asian neighbours, analysts say.

The prime ministers of the two countries met last week on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in the Maldives, saying they expected to open a "new chapter" in bilateral talks.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them triggered by their territorial dispute over Kashmir, which remains a major hurdle in any future comprehensive peace deal.

A fully-fledged peace dialogue -- suspended by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants -- was resumed in February this year.