India-Pakistan visa rules to be eased

Islamabad:  India and Pakistan today took a big step forward in strengthening trade relationship by easing visa rules. The move is aimed at normalising trade ties by the end of the year.

The revised visa agreement will facilitate movement of people, particularly businessmen of both the countries.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is leading an over 120 people-strong business delegation to Pakistan, said that he had discussed the issue of visa liberalisation with the Home Minister.

India and Pakistan will completely revise the existing bilateral visa agreement that was signed in 1974 to facilitate travel by bonafide businessmen from both the countries.

"Visa agreement of 1974 will be revised and signed...I have discussed this matter with the Home Minister. Commerce, Home and External Affairs secretaries are in the final stages of deliberations," Sharma told reporters here.

The Joint Working Group (JWG) that has been set up by the two countries to revise a Bilateral Visa Agreement in 1974 has finalised a draft which both sides have agreed to.
"Once the agreement has been made, necessary approvals have to be taken from the respective governments. This is for all people. Special dispensations would be made for business people," he said.

He said top business chambers will endorse the name of the people and they would be given visas.

"We have nominated FICCI and CII and Pakistan will also nominate two chambers for the same," he added. He also said that India and Pakistan would soon relax banking norms.

An understanding has been reached between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on granting permission for opening two branches of banks on a reciprocal basis, he added.

Further, the joint working groups on power and petroleum products would meet in March to discuss.

Mr Sharma is also met Prime Minister Gilani late Wednesday evening.
Story First Published: February 15, 2012 22:18 IST

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