LAHORE Arriving at a 'broad agreement on a liberalised visa regime, Pakistan and India have decided to issue multiple-entry visas to prominent businessmen valid for one year.
Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industrys Joint Secretary Arvind Mehta announced this on Friday in New Delhi.
Pakistans High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik also confirmed the Indian officials statement.
Addressing a meeting organised by FICCI with the Pakistani business delegation, Mehta said, The one-year multiple-entry visa would allow businessmen to visit up to 10 cities with no requirement of a police report and no restriction on places of entry and exit.
A note to this effect will be ready in a week for the consideration of the Union Cabinet, Mehta said.
He sought to assure the Pakistan delegation that the perception of some business persons that open trade would swamp Pakistan with Indian goods was misplaced.
Do not be fearful of the future because things are changing.
The South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has several safeguards to give comfort to domestic industry as these safeguards would allow imports to be stopped should there be any disruption of the domestic industry, he said.
Mr Mehta also sought to allay the apprehension that India had imposed non-tariff barriers on imports from Pakistan.
Citing the case of cement imports, he said there is zero customs duty on cement import, a policy signal that India welcomes cement from that country.
Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik, however, remarked that there was genuine apprehension amongst Pakistani business persons about the existence of NTBs.
These barriers do exist and there is no point in brushing this aside, he said and expressed confidence that the commerce secretaries of the two countries would take steps to dismantle these barriers.
On visas, Mr Malik said that the High Commissions mission statement was that business visas applied for at 11:00 am should be given by 4:00 pm the same day.
He hoped that this would be reciprocated by the Indian side.
Mr Tariq Sayeed, leader of the Pakistan delegation and Vice President, CACCI & Immediate Past President SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that the potential of trade between the two countries was estimated at US$12 billion in 2010, against actual trade of US$ 2.
3 billion.
This means that both countries could tap only 27 per cent of the available potential.
The share of bilateral trade in total trade of our two countries remains less than 1 per cent of or total trade with the rest of the world.
This is perhaps the lowest ever trade proportion between any two countries of the world, a point that all of us should ponder over, he said.
Mr Vikramjit Singh Sahney, Senior Vice President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the business community of both countries look forward to moving from a positive list approach to a negative list at the earliest; significant liberalisation of visa regimes; review of and minimising NTBs against imports from Pakistan; greater effort at people-to-people contacts; signing of an investment promotion and protection treaty; strengthening of trade infrastructure at land customs stations, creating awareness about each others competencies and business capabilities through road shows and exhibitions; strengthening air, rail and road links; opening of scheduled bank branches in each others country and revival of a new silk route.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 26-Nov-2011 here.