India, Pak may ease visa regime at next secretary-level talks

India and Pakistan flag
New Delhi, Apr 14: India and Pakistan are likely to announce formally a new business visa regime to boost bilateral commerce at the next secretary level talks.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim, during their meeting yesterday, expressed "joint wish" that business visa regime needs to be liberalised at the earliest.

"It was noted that a formal decision on this is expected at the forthcoming meeting of the Home Secretary of India and the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of Pakistan," a joint statement released today said.

Although India has sought the date for the meeting after May 22, the schedule is yet to be finalised.

Giving impetus to people-to-people contact and trade ties with Pakistan, India yesterday opened a modern Integrated Check Post (ICP), equipped with a dedicated passenger terminal and sprawling cargo facility, built at cost of Rs 150 crore, at Attari.

As per the statement, Pakistan side stated that through a Cabinet decision in 2009, the flow of items is linked to provision of adequate infrastructure at the check post.

" (Pakistan) would take the case to the Cabinet on the basis of the additional capacity created through the new ICP," the statement said adding Pakistan will take necessary steps to remove extant restriction on items permitted through the land route.

The objective of ICP is to permit all items not in the 'negative list' to be traded across the land border at Attari-Wagah. The two ministers also expressed their wish that discussions may continue at the official level for possibilities of opening more land customs stations.

Except 1,209 items in the 'Negative List', Pakistan now allows import of all other Indian goods even as only 137 items are allowed through land route.


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