New Delhi: Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Sunday said before heading for a three day business visit to neighbouring Pakistan that Pakistan is likely to extend Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by the year-end.

The largest Indian business delegation to Pakistan, consisting of 120 members and headed by Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, with a view to strengthen economies ties is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan via the Wagah land border on Monday.

Since independence, this is the first time an Indian trade Minister will be visiting Pakistan.

During the three day stay, the delegation will interact with respective officials and will take part in a series of events in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The delegation will also take part in the ongoing India Show in Lahore. Over 400 exhibitors are participating in this show which is intended to increase future trade opportunities, B2B meetings and direct buyer-seller interaction.

Sharma is slated to meet his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim twice on bilateral issues.

“Pakistan may grant the much-awaited Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by the year-end,” the Commerce Minister told reporters here.

Experts believe that the talks will normalize trade relations between the both neighbouring countries.

Pakistan has committed to shifting its trade regime with India from the Positive List (PL) to Negative List (NL), thus allowing multi-fold increase in access to Indian goods in the Pakistani markets.

At present, Pakistan can only import 1946 items from India whereas India permits import of all, but few items in the Indian NL.

When asked whether Pakistan will announce NL during the visit or not, he said, “This is a matter of mutual understanding. Pakistani Commerce Secretary during his November 2011 visit to India had talked about this.”

“We (India and Pakistan) have the potential to double (current) USD 2.7 billion bilateral trade in next 3-4 years,” he stated.

India had granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996.

Both the Ministers are likely to discuss multiple-entry visa as well.

Sharma will also meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Sharma will also be addressing the 6th South Asian Free Trade Area Ministerial Council meeting in Islamabad on February 16.

(JPN/Bureau)