Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh will embark on a four-day visit, beginning on Wednesday, to Islamabad along with union commerce secretary SR Rao in what is being seen as an effort aimed at boosting people-to-people-contact and India-Pakistan trade through the Attari-Wagah border.
According to an official communication of the Centre to the state government, Rao is heading an 11-member delegation to Pakistan for meetings to be held in Islamabad on September 20-21. The delegation will cross over through the border on Wednesday afternoon and return on September 22.
The commerce secretaries of India and Pakistan will hold talks on a wide range of issues, including bilateral trade, grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by Pakistan and boosting bilateral trade, government sources said.
The Punjab government is hoping that these talks would give further fillip to bilateral trade after the opening of the Integrated Check Post at the Attari-Wagah border.
While Pakistan has allowed just 137 items for import through Attari, the state government has been demanding that the number should be brought on a par with more than 6,000 items being traded now through the Mumbai-Karachi sea route.
The Parkash Singh Badal government has also been demanding that Pakistan should allow transit of goods to Afghanistan in the same manner in which it had permitted the transit of goods from Afghanistan to India.
Government sources stated that also on the chief secretary's agenda would be the issue of opening the second trade link through the Hussainiwala border to boost India-Pakistan trade activity.
It is learnt that Rakesh Singh is likely to raise the issue of allowing Punjab MLAs to visit Pakistan on the lines of easy access which Indian MPs have as part of people-to-people contact.
Another proposal of the Punjab government is that pilgrims from both countries should be allowed to visit respective holy places without visa.