Joint Working Groups on electricity, petroleum and banking scheduled to meet this month
Seeking to give a big push to opening up of borders for trade and commerce between India and Pakistan, the Joint Working Groups (JWGs) on electricity, petroleum and banking are scheduled to meet this month to work on further enhancing the economic engagement and opening of bank branches between the two countries.
In addition to this, the talks between the Home Secretaries of the two countries for liberalising the visa regime and reviewing the 1974 visa agreement between India and Pakistan are also likely to be held this month in order to pave the way for a new and more open visa policy, especially for businessmen from the across the border to enhance people-to-people exchange.
Officials here said the joint working group on electricity was scheduled to meet in Lahore this month to work and finalise the modalities for opening up electricity trade between the two countries. The first meeting of this JWG was held in October last in New Delhi.
Similarly, the first meeting of the JWG on trade in petroleum products is likely to be held next week in New Delhi where several proposals, including laying of pipelines between the two nations, would come up for discussion. India has already offered to lay pipelines from Mathura, Panipat and Bhatinda to areas across the border for transportation of petroleum products, which are now shipped through Dubai and land at the Karachi port. Trade in petrochemical products, which are in high demand in Pakistan, will also come up for discussions during the meeting of this particular group.
On the other hand, the issue of opening of bank branches to facilitate trade between the two nations will also be an active area of discussion. Talks between the State Bank of Pakistan and the Reserve Bank of India are likely to be held in Mumbai on March 10 to discuss this issue threadbare and draw up a roadmap for opening of bank branches. Traders on both sides have stated that for any enhancement of trade engagement, it is important the banking branches are opened in both countries for smooth financial transactions.
The Commerce and Industry Ministry has already urged the Finance Ministry to consider amending the investment policy to bring Pakistan on a par with the guidelines that govern foreign direct investment flow from Bangladesh. The matter is now under the active consideration of the Finance Ministry and a decision is expected to be taken soon.
A JWG is being also constituted to consider the issue of opening of the Munabao-Khokharapar route for trade. The JWG would report to the governments before the next round of talks between the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries. Regulators from India and Pakistan have already held consultations with leading chambers of each other in the last few months to deliberate on trade regulations, standards and labelling requirements.