South Asian ministers fail to resolve India-Pakistan tariff row

DHAKA, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) – India accused Pakistan of jeopardising a fledgling South Asian free trade deal by failing to fully implement key tariff cuts as a regional ministerial meeting wound up in Dhaka on Wednesday. India said that a Pakistani move to limit tariff concessions for Indian goods was a breach of the trade deal as ministers at the two-day session decided to refer the dispute to a meeting of trade ministers later.

“When you enter into a contract, there’s an obligation,” India’s state minister for external affairs E. Ahamed told reporters in Dhaka.

But the Pakistani move “was a negation of the contract,” he said, adding “it will affect the entire SAARC process in future.”

“It questions the future of the agreement,” added Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran.

The Indian officials’ comments came at the close of the meeting of SAARC, or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

He said that the row had been referred to SAARC trade ministers by “consensus.”

When a country “deviates from the agreement and is not fulfilling obligations it ought to fulfill, naturally it is a matter to be resolved by the SAARC Council of Commerce Ministers,” Ahamed said.

The row arose after th