South Asia vows to boost trade as tensions ease

ADDU, November 11, 2011 (AFP) – South Asian leaders ended a summit in the Maldives Friday with pledges to increase regional trade as arch rivals India and Pakistan demonstrated signs of easing tensions between them. The US, which is an observer of SAARC, welcomed the easing of Indo-Pakistan tensions and said increasing trade and economic cooperation could also form a solid basis for political ties.

“The recent developments (between India and Pakistan) offer reason for significant hope,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert told the summit on Friday.

Last week, Pakistan’s cabinet announced it had approved a proposal giving India the status of “most favoured nation” but there has been confusion since about when it will be implemented.

Efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by concern over Afghanistan’s prospects as international troops start to depart after 10 years of fighting the Taliban.

Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.

Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month