ISLAMABAD – Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday said the visa agreement between Pakistan and India will be finalised during the Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan.

Talking to media representatives here outside the Parliament House, the minister said that practical decisions would be taken to liberalise the issuance of visa for normalising people-to-people contacts.

He said relations between Pakistan and India were improving according to the wishes of the people of both the neighbouring states.

To a question, the minister said if the investigation into allegations against deputy opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Shaukat Basra were conducted in a biased manner, the Interior Ministry would appoint Inspector General (IG) Police from any other province to probe the matter.

Monitoring Desk adds: Speaking in New Delhi on Tuesday, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said India and Pakistan will soon sign agreement for liberalising visa norms for business travellers,. “From our side, it is ready and it will be signed soon,” Sharma said at an India-Pakistan Parliamentary Dialogue meeting organised here by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Sharma said the clear announcement regarding the visa agreement would be made during External Affairs Minister SM Krishna’s visit to Pakistan later this week. “Our external affairs minister will be travelling to Pakistan soon and by that time we will have clarity,” he said. Krishna is scheduled to go on a three-day official visit to Pakistan beginning Sept 7.

The new visa agreement is aimed at facilitating multiple entry for businessmen from both sides on a no-reporting basis for one year at a time.

The proposal also includes non-business visas for divided families, particularly for those aged over 65 years, and for those wanting to attend marriages and funerals.

The Indian minister also said that both the countries will sign deals in the next few weeks for cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters and redressal of trade grievances.

“These agreements will be signed soon. It’s a matter of weeks,” Sharma said.

The two countries had signed memoranda of understanding in February for cooperation in customs matters, bilateral cooperation agreement on mutual recognition between Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and an agreement on redressal of trade grievances between them.

Sharma said all these three agreements will be signed and implemented soon.

These agreements are likely to substantially boost trade and strengthen economic relations between the two countries.

The MoUs were signed in February when Anand Sharma led the largest Indian business delegation visit to Pakistan.

Sharma told the Pakistani parliamentarians that the signing of the agreements had been delayed because of the change in key bureaucratic positions in the commerce ministries of India and Pakistan.  “We have new commerce secretary, Pakistan has new commerce secretary. So it is taking some time,” he said.

Sharma said India was committed to remove tariffs and non-tariffs barriers to boost bilateral trade with Pakistan.  “If Pakistan takes one step, India will always take two steps,” the commerce and industry minister said.

The minister pointed out that India recently cut sensitive list of items under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) by 30 percent, in a bid to allow more number of goods to be imported from Pakistan.