India, Pakistan to double bilateral trade, liberalise visa regime
Wednesday September 28, 2011 11:13:10 PM,
New Delhi: Pushing
their trade diplomacy amid differences over a host of issues like
cross-border terror, India and Pakistan Wednesday agreed to
jointly double bilateral trade to $6 billion annually and decided
to liberalize their visa regime for businessmen of both countries.
"The issue of multiple entry visas was discussed and the decision
is expected soon," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma
said while addressing a press conference after talks with his
Pakistani counterpart Amin Fahim.
The new business visa regime would allow multiple entries and
could be valid for a period up to one year, Sharma said. According
to a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two countries
have agreed to conclude issue of liberalising business visas by
The ministers expressed hope that a liberal visa regime would
rapidly expand and strengthen bilateral economic and business
"A more secure regional environment would progressively help both
countries to keep liberalising the visa arrangements for business
people," a joint statement said.
The business communities of both the countries have been demanding
liberalization of the visa regime and the move is likely to come
as a big relief for them.
"More business visas should be stamped to facilitate stronger
trade ties between the two countries," DHL Express vice president
(South Asia) Ramesh Natarajan had said during a business meeting
in Mumbai Tuesday.
Trade promotion bodies of India and Pakistan also signed an
agreement to facilitate the flow of bilateral trade.
The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and Trade Promotion
Authority of Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding here in
the presence of the trade ministers of both countries.
"The agreement is aimed to facilitate bilateral trade," Anand
The two organisations will organise road shows and trade fairs and
suggest measures to promote trade. The role of the two bodies is
important as the two countries target to increase their trade to
$6 billion in three years, from the current $2.7 billion.
In a joint statement, released after the official level bilateral
talks between Sharma and Fahim here, both sides said that India
and Pakistan were entering a new phase of full normalisation of
bilateral trade relations which boded well for enhancing mutual
trust and understanding.
It was also decided that the commerce secretaries of the two
nations would meet in November to take forward what had been
agreed at the talks.
The two ministers fully reaffirmed their commitment for normalised
commercial links between both countries which would strengthen the
bilateral relationship and build the bridges of friendship, trust
and understanding for the mutual benefit of their people and
promotion of prosperity in South Asia.
The two ministers agreed their countries would cooperate for a
high ambition of preferential trade relations under the framework
of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). They agreed that
all mutual obligations contracted under SAFTA would be implemented
with full sincerity.
The statement said when the commerce secretaries of the two
countries meet, they would lay down specific timelines to
normalise all trade relationships, including dismantling of all
non-tariff barriers. Full implementation of SAFTA obligations was
Both ministers agreed to further promote greater intra-regional
connectivity through road, rail, shipping and air. They affirmed
that both countries would cooperate and work in close coordination
at multilateral forum such as WTO and SAARC, to support each other
to strengthen their economies.
The meeting between the commerce ministers of India and Pakistan
is part of the normalization of relations between the two
counties, a process that started in Thimphu in February this year
leading up to talks between the foreign ministers of the two
countries in July this year.
The talks took place against the backdrop of the US' ties with
Pakistan plunging to a new low amid the US' condemnation of
Pakistan's use of using terrorism as an instrument of policy and
the links between the Haqqani network and Pakistan's spy agency in
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