Businessmen will be given multi-entry visas for more than a year with expanded access

In a development that is likely to bring cheer to people on both sides of the border, Pakistan's Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood on Thursday indicated that India and Pakistan would, in all likelihood, announce a new liberal visa regime by next month to facilitate easy movement of businessmen and give a fillip to trade.

“In principle, the visa details have been finalised. But they need to be formally approved and then announced after Home-Secretary-level talks. This would be done by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and the Home Ministry of India,” Mr. Mahmood told journalists after the inaugural function of the four-day “Lifestyle Pakistan” exhibition here. The exhibition was inaugurated by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Mr. Mahmood.

Multi-entry visas

Mr. Mahmood said there were possibilities that businessmen from both countries would be given multi-entry visas for more than one year with access to multiple cities. While Mr. Mahmood did not spell out the specifics, officials said these visa holders could be exempted from reporting to the police also.

“We expect that the meeting between the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and the Home Ministry of India would take place this month or in May and this would be formally announced,” he said.

India and Pakistan have been working hard behind the scenes to do away with the 1974 visa agreement and put in place a liberal regime that would allow more free movement for people-to-people exchange.

“Today's scenario is that a Pakistani businessman travelling to Delhi cannot even go to Gurgaon,” Mr. Mahmood said.

Infrastructure

Stressing the need to improve the infrastructure on the borders to boost the movement of cement and other products, Mr. Mahmood said Indian businessmen were always welcome to invest in Pakistan but there were restrictions on Pakistani businessmen doing so.

Trade in petro products

Speaking at the function, Mr. Sharma said he would discuss all the issues, including allowing trade of power and petroleum products, on Friday with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim.

“We are talking about trade in petroleum products. We are also working towards opening of bank branches of both the countries. The Central Banks of both the countries are in dialogue to finalise the modalities. We will be discussing all these issues,” he said.

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