Indo-Pak to institute liberal visa regime for businessmen soon

LAHORE: With Pakistan and India fast heading towards full normalisation of trade and economic relations, a very liberal visa policy is likely to be in place very soon as all formalities to this regard had already been agreed between the two sides.

This was stated by Pakistan High Commissioner in India Shahid Malik, while talking to LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh. LCCI Senior Vice President Kashif Younis Meher and a number of Executive Committee Members were also present in the meeting.

Pakistan High Commissioner said that as per new visa policy, Pakistani and Indian businessmen would get 10-destination one-year multiple visa that would help jack up the existing $ 2 billion two way trade volume to $6 billion in next three years.

Talking about ongoing Pak-India parleys in the backdrop of MFN status to India, Shahid Malik said that all core issues including Kashmir, Saichin, Sir Creek, Water and a liberal visa regime are very much part of Pak-India dialogue.

He said that three new elements including import of electricity, petroleum products and BT cottonseed had been added into talks. Saying that input of the stakeholders is extremely important, the High Commissioner made it clear that MFN status to India would be done in stages after consultation with business community and on the first step work on converting the Positive List into a Negative List is well on way.

He said that Non-Tariff Barriers are top on agenda of Pakistan talks with India and New Delhi is committed to all Pakistan specific NTBs. He said that Indian Commerce Minister is likely to visit Pakistan in February 2012 and the visit would further strengthen trade relations between the two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that all possible efforts would be done by the government to ensure the removal of NTBs before finally granting MFN status to India.

He said that the reservations of certain sectors including pharmaceutical, automobile, motorcycle, petro-chemical, auto parts, sugar, textiles, cooking oil, ghee industries should be satiated first. He said that any forward step without addressing the concerns and fears of private sector with regard to awarding MFN status to India will only result in causing more problems to the domestic industry and economy overall.

Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that there are complex domestic, political and security compulsions on both sides, which are bearing heavily on the existing framework for bilateral trade. He said that the business community strongly feels that despite having granted Pakistan MFN status, a great deal of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers are still in place while exporting to India.

The LCCI President said that both Pakistan and India should harmonize their custom procedures for testing compliance of safety and quarantine standards.

In this regard, special quarantine centres and labs for compliance with safety standards should be established at border crossings.

Irfan Qaiser Sheikh suggested that Pakistan High Commission should organize fairs and exhibitions in India in liaison with Pakistan’s major Chambers of Commerce as such activities would provide a great opportunity to Pakistani businessmen to interact with their Indian counterparts.

He also expressed the hope that the Pakistan High Commission would continue to play its role for further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

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