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India, Pakistan to sign new, liberal visa regime pact

In a significant breakthrough, India and Pakistan have agreed to move towards a liberal visa regime. The two sides will shortly sign a new agreement that will replace the 1974 visa agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2012 00:15 IST
Anupama Airy

In a significant breakthrough, India and Pakistan have agreed to move towards a liberal visa regime. The two sides will shortly sign a new agreement that will replace the 1974 visa agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad.

After holding day-long talks with his Pakitani counterpart, Makhdoom Amin Fahim on Wednesday, Union commerce minister Anand Sharma said "the agreed drafts on the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan were in place." The new visa agreement between the two sides will facilitate movement of businessmen and people across the border.

"We have finalised the details with the ministry of home and external affairs and after appropriate approvals, we expect to sign this agreement soon," he said.

In addition, banks from India and Pakistan will soon be able to open branches on both sides as the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of Pakistan (the central bank of Pakistan) are giving final touches to an agreement in this regard. "We have invited a team of officials from the SBP to Mumbai next month to finalise details over opening of bank branches on both sides," Sharma said.

Taking mutual co-operation in trade matters ahead, India and Pakistan on also executed three bilateral pacts on customs, mutual recognition and redressal of trade grievances.

The Pakistan cabinet, which met on Tuesday, had approved signing of pacts on cooperation and assistance in customs matters, bilateral cooperation on recognition between Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority and Bureau of Indian Standards, and agreement on redressal of trade grievances between Pakistan and India.

On moving to the negative list regime, Fahim said approvals will be in place at the earliest.

Government officials from both sides said this could come as early as the month end."I have been informed that the negative list is now just a matter of processes to be put in place and that Pakistan government is committed to move to a negative list by February end,” Sharma told reporters.

Pakistan, which presently has a list of 1963 items that are allowed to be traded with India, has proposed a India-specific negative list of 636 items for imports from India.