NEW DELHI  - India has expressed optimism that Pakistan will announce the negative list for doing trade with India during the forthcoming visit of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, which begins today (Monday).

“This (announcement of a negative list) is the understanding which was given to us when the Pakistan Commerce Secretary came in November. There is every reason for us to believe that there is an expressed wish and desire on the part of Pakistan as it is in our case to move to a regime which deepens and diversifies our trade and enhances economic engagement,” Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at a media interaction on the eve of his visit to Pakistan.

Indian Commerce Secretary Dr Rahul Khullar added currently India operates a positive list with Pakistan. “What we have agreed to is a sequenced approach in the sense, in the first stage we will move to a negative list and second phase they would dismantle that negative list,” he said.

Sharma’s visit will be the first bilateral visit by an Indian commerce minister to Pakistan. During the visit, Sharma will travel to Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad and apart from meeting his Pakistani counterpart will also call on the President and meet the Prime Minister.

The Commerce Secretary said “On the whole we remain optimistic that the negative list will be announced during the course of the minister’s visit,” adding a very conscious decision had been taken that this move could not be taken following a big bang approach. “I think the signs for a transition are already there. Very recently, about a month ago, they liberalised some amount of trade across the land route,” Dr Khullar said.

On the matter of providing multiple entry visas to business communities of both nations, the minister said both the governments have talked and the drafts have been exchanged. “We are in favour of an early conclusion and signing of an agreement for a multiple entry visa regime to facilitate the movement of business leaders of India and Pakistan as part of this process of normalisation and strengthening of economic relations,” Sharma said.