Decision on liberal India, Pak visa regime at Sec-level talks

Decision on liberal India, Pak visa regime at Sec-level talks

The decision on issuance of multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen of India and Pakistan may be taken at the next Home Secretary level talks on May 24-25 in Islamabad, Parliament was informed today.

"...a formal decision on this is expected to be taken at the forthcoming meeting of Home Secretary of India and Secretary of Ministry of Interior of Pakistan," Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Scindia was replying to a query that whether both nations have held discussions on multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen as part of reducing non-tariff barriers to promote trade and economic ties.

Visa restriction is considered a major hurdle by traders in the normalisation of bilateral trade ties, he said.

The Home-Secretary level talks are likely to be held in Islamabad later this month.

Quoting the joint statement issued after the two Commerce Minister level talks in April, Scindia said that both trade ministers expressed a joint wish that "business visa regime needs to be liberalised at the earliest".

In an another reply, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that both governments have agreed to explore the possibility of opening of Munabao/Khokrapuron route for trade, in consultation with stakeholders.

"In the meeting on February 15, 2012 between Commerce Ministers of India and Pakistan it was agreed for constituting a joint working group for this purpose," Sharma said.

"Yes Madam," Sharma said to a question on whether there is a demand for opening up of the border posts at Munabao in Rajasthan and Khokrapuron in Sindh province to improve bilateral trade.

Last month, the second gate at Attari/Wagah border was inaugurated through which 137 items can be imported by Pakistan from India via land route. The Indian side does not restrict trade through land route.

Sharma said the issues discussed by commerce ministers last month included removal of restrictions by Pakistan on items permitted to be imported through land route; opening of more land custom stations, fast tracking of issues concerning trade in petroleum products; electricity and liberalisation of visa regime.

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