NEW DELHI: Hoping that the forthcoming visit of Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna would lead to a liberal visa regime agreement, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, on Tuesday, said India and Pakistan would soon ink three agreements in the areas of customs cooperation, mutual recognition of standards and redressal of trade issues to give a fillip to economic activity. “If Pakistan takes one step, India will always take two steps,” Sharma said.
Addressing the Pakistani parliamentary delegation at the Jinnah Institute and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FICCI) first India-Pakistan Parliamentary Dialogue, Sharma said 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 a new commerce secretary, Pakistan has a new commerce secretary. So it is taking some time,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian media.
Sharma said India was committed to removing tariffs and non-tariff barriers to boost the bilateral trade with Pakistan.
The minister pointed out that India recently cut the sensitive list of items under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) by 30 percent, in a bid to allow more goods to be imported from Pakistan. “We have reduced the Safta sensitive list by 30 percent. This will benefit only Pakistan,” he said.
The minister said granting of most favoured nation (MFN) status to India by Pakistan was a very positive step and would substantially boost tradeable items between the two countries.
Sharma told the Pakistani parliamentarians that India was ready to grant multi-entry and multi-city visas to businessmen from Pakistan. “I am only hoping that the agreement is signed soon. Krishna is visiting Pakistan this weekend, and, hopefully, something will happen,” he remarked.
Sharma said there was a need to also open up more land routes to allow more people-to-people exchange and smooth entry and exit of business community from both nations. “The agreements will be signed soon. It is a matter of weeks, maximum,” he added. “We will soon be coming out with detailed clarification and guidelines on granting permission to Indian business houses and individuals to invest in Pakistan. There were some doubts, whether the Indian industry is allowed to invest or not. The answer is yes. It is just a procedural formality. I have been informed that it is getting addressed. It is a just a matter of days. So, both ways investment flow will start,” he said.
India recently allowed the Pakistan nationals and companies to invest in India through the semi-automatic approval route. Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stood at $2.7 billion in 2010-11.
Haider Abbas Rizvi, a member the visiting delegation, said that an increase in trade and investment would help both sides resolve other matters. “Our relationship should not become hostage to any issue or incident. Our dialogue process should be irrevocable. We have to ensure this in the future,” Rizvi said.