WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday hailed a move by Pakistan toward normalizing trade relations with India, saying it is a 'very, very big deal' that could open up great economic opportunities.
Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said in Islamabad on Wednesday that the federal cabinet had unanimously approved India as a most-favored nation (MFN).
However, US officials said they understood that the Pakistani cabinet had approved a negotiated path to reach MFN -- a move they still described as a major development.
"This is a very, very big deal, very important, could lead to really great economic opportunities for both India and Pakistan," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. It "sets the kind of example" that other countries in South and Central Asia should follow toward building an integrated regional economy that Washington has pushed under its "New Silk Road" project, she said.
Washington has sought to put Afghanistan at the center of such a project in a bid to ensure the war-torn nation becomes peaceful and prosperous in the long term.
"We would like to see the opening of trade relations because this will bring prosperity to everybody, break down old barriers," Nuland said. "We really applaud Pakistan and India for taking this concrete step to improve their relations. It's the most tangible thing that they've done yet," she said.
"And our hope is that the process of normalization in both directions, including getting eventually to full MFN, continues and that there is a reduction in non-tariff barriers by India," she added. (AFP)