With Pakistan favourably inclined to give the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India, both countries on Thursday agreed to work out modalities to open trade in the petroleum sector, energy and commodities as well as opening up of the banking sector and cross-border investments.

Speaking at the India-Pakistan Business conclave organised by FICCI here, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said he had accepted the invitation extended by Pakistan's Trade Minister Makhdoom Muhammed Amin Fahim and a high-level business delegation led by him would be visiting Pakistan in November this year to give a fillip to the economic relations and cooperation.

“Both of us agreed that a meaningful economic engagement necessarily requires greater movement of business people and there is a need for liberalising business visa regime. We have urged the concerned officials on both sides to expeditiously conclude the liberal business visa regime by November,” he said.

Mr. Sharma said Mr. Fahim had recognised that the grant of MFN status to India would be a key step in expanding bilateral trade relations. “We hope that Mr. Fahim would carry home the message of goodwill from Indian business community and secure political mandate for greater trade liberalisation with India,” he said.

Mr. Sharma emphasised the need to look afresh and work together to change the paradigm.

He urged Mr. Fahim to lend his leadership to providing new life and energy to the process of SAARC economic integration. “India will reciprocate in equal measure. I heard the Commerce Secretary of Pakistan saying that we should aspire for an economic community which links SAARC with ASEAN. It is indeed a bold vision and we must strive towards achieving this objective,” he said.

Mr. Sharma said trade in petroleum products, energy and commodities would be significant steps for building long-term stake in each other's economy. Strengthening the border infrastructure remains a high priority for us. The Integrated Check Post which is being constructed at the Attari-Wagah Border at a cost of Rs.150 crore will be operational by the end of the current year,” he added.

Mr. Fahim expressed optimism at the dawn of a new era of trade and investment relations with India as both countries are now poised to open bank branches and land routes.

He said SAFTA would enter into negotiations with ASEAN to create a bigger block, thus having ASEAN as a partner, on the East and ECOTA, which has Turkey and Central Asia, on the West.

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