File photo shows Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma (L) and his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim (R) as they look on after a ceremony in Islamabad on February 15, 2012. India has offered to export petroleum products to Pakistan to help it overcome its energy crisis.– Photo by AFP—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan opened talks Tuesday on Islamabad importing oil from its eastern neighbour in a bid to ease a crippling energy crisis, an official said.

The talks were held by senior civil servants from both countries’ petroleum ministries at a five-star hotel in the Pakistani capital.

India has offered to export petroleum products to Pakistan to help it overcome an energy crisis which cripples the country’s industry and leaves millions of people suffering during the hot summers and chilly winters.

“India has surplus petroleum products and wants to export it to Pakistan. If we can save some money by buying it from India, we will buy it from them,” a senior official at Pakistan’s petroleum and natural resources ministry told AFP.

The official attended the talks but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“We today discussed how to import products from India. We would like to get diesel in Karachi and furnace oil through the Wagah border. We are very interested in getting furnace oil in Punjab for the power plants,” he said.

The official said quantity and price had yet to be discussed and that the cabinet would have to approve any future petroleum trade.

“We will discuss the issues related to quantity and price in a second session of talks scheduled in New Delhi in the first week of July and then cabinet will make a final decision on the proposals,” he said.

Pakistan’s annual requirement for petroleum products is around 80 million tons. The country imports 85 per cent of its needs, the official said.

Last year India exported goods worth $2.33 billion to Pakistan, while its imports from its neighbour were worth $330 million.

Efforts are being made to boost Indian-Pakistan trade since Pakistan decided to grant India “Most Favoured Nation (MFN)” status by the end of the year.

Trade has been hampered by restrictions and tariffs – even now, direct cross-border traffic accounts for less than one per cent of the two countries’ global commerce.

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