India readies business card for SAARC businessmen

As Home Minister Rajnath Singh is all set to travel to Islamabad to attend the home minister’s conference of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, India has decided to roll out the ‘India Business Card’ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi two years ago for seamless travel of prominent businessmen across the region.

The Business Card had initially hit a design hurdle with agencies differing on the “security features,” which had increased the cost of the project four times.

An official said that 5,000 cards have been printed and they would be rolled out any time soon.

Intelligence agencies had expressed apprehension over easing visa restrictions on businessmen from Pakistan but government decided to implement it to bring normalcy in the region.

The progress of the “sticker” was reviewed recently as Mr. Singh is all set to embark on a two-day visit to Pakistan this week.

“The business card will be only given to prominent businessmen of the eight SAARC countries and the card will have to be carried with a passport. It will have all the passport details as well as the travel history of the businessmen. It is being issued to facilitate trade and commerce among the SAARC nations and since Pakistan is also a member country we will extend the facility to it also,” said a senior Home Ministry official.

Unlike his earlier visit to Kathmandu in 2014 where Mr. Singh attended the sixth SAARC home ministers’ conference with a large delegation, this time only four officials will accompany him, which includes union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi.

A senior home ministry official on Monday said that though they were keen on a bilateral meet with his Pakistani counterpart, the chances seemed remote now as Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has expressed its reservations.

Mr. Singh is expected to leave India on August 3 and return in the evening on August 4 after attending the meeting there. Mr. Mehrishi leaves with other members of the delegation on August 2.

The SAARC countries are also working on a “uniform visa application form and software” for 24 categories of entitled persons, which include Dignitaries, Judges of higher courts, Parliamentarians, Senior Officials, Businessmen, Journalists, Sportsmen etc.

“The main agenda of SAARC would be the early conclusion of the suppression of the terrorism convention that is yet to be adopted by the United Nations. Terror, of course is one of the prime areas of concern and it will be discussed. The other major area we would be focussing at is maritime piracy,” a senior SAARC official told The Hindu.

On a possibility that the SAARC conference might be clouded by India-Pakistan meetings, the SAARC official said, “issues of bilateral interests are never discussed at SAARC forums and it is prohibited too.”

MoS (home) Kiren Rijiju downplayed Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed's threat, and said that Mr. Singh will visit Pakistan as scheduled.

"The SAARC meeting is a multilateral meeting. There are some commitments. He is not going to give some message or having a separate meeting with (the) Pakistani Home Minister," Mr. Kiren Rijiju said.

Saeed warned of a countrywide protest in Pakistan by his outfit if Singh arrives in Islamabad to attend the SAARC ministerial conference.

Though applicable to all the member SAARC nations (eight, including India), the biggest hurdle block for issuance of this card was Pakistan.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 11:05:49 pm |