Asserting that India-Pakistan relations were going through one of the best phases in the history of the two countries, Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Shahid Malik on Tuesday said both countries were close to putting in place a new liberal visa agreement especially for businessmen.
Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the curtain raiser for the announcement of “Pakistan Lifestyle” show in India, Mr. Malik said the new visa regime once signed will facilitate issuance of liberal visas for businessmen which will mean one year multi-entry and non-reporting visa. “This decision was taken at a meeting between the visiting Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh during their meeting on April 8 in New Delhi. Both agreed that a new visa agreement needs to be finalised soon,” he remarked.
The two countries have decided to do away with the 1974 visa agreement and make it more liberal to allow business and the common man more access to easy visa facility. “The new visa regime will also help in liberal trade and enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries. We hope to work out the modalities soon but I cannot share or fix a deadline for the same,” Mr. Malik said.
Interestingly, Mr. Malik had also talked about this issue at a function organised by Assocham on Monday.
Mr. Malik said relations between the two countries were undergoing one of the best phases in the history. “The dialogue process between the two nations is on. Both the sides are talking to each other and liberal trade regime had been put in place. “With Pakistan slashing the negative list and opening of the second Integrated Check Post (ICP) on the Indian side this week, free flow of trade and goods related traffic will take place. It is part of the roadmap drawn by both the countries trade will provide the necessary momentum,” he said.
Mr. Malik said Pakistan will continue to do away with the negative list in future also but it has some issues on non-tariff barriers and the same had been conveyed to the India side. “It takes two to tango,” he remarked when asked how fast things are going to move.
The Home Secretaries of the two countries are likely to meet in the near future and are likely to give a final shape to the visa agreement. India has already asked Pakistan for dates for the Home Secretary level talks. “There could be a provision to give one-year multiple-entry visa to those businessmen whose credentials are certified by the chambers on the both sides. From India, it will be Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and from our side it will be Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
This was one of the main issues finalised during the visit of Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma to Pakistan in February this year.