Delhi may add Islamabad to its roaming list

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 19 2012, 08:04am hrs
Indian telecom operators could soon provide international cellular roaming facility in Pakistan and offer telecommunication connectivity as the two sides are working on a proposal to set up an optical fibre link.

The plan would be taken up for discussion at the secretary-level talks scheduled for September 20-21 when commerce secretary SR Rao meets his Pakistani counterpart to strengthen trade ties.

Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stood at $2.7 billion in 2010-11. There has been a dialogue on laying of an optical fibre network between the two countries and offering international roaming. These will be discussed in the secretary level talks, said a commerce ministry official.

The meeting comes after visa norms were relaxed for businessmen post external affairs minister S M Krishnas visit to Pakistan last week.

Apart from establishing communication networks, New Delhi is also likely to put forth a proposal to sell electricity to Pakistan through a transmission link between Amritsar and Lahore.

Talks are on for India to sell 500-MW of electricity through the transmission line that would provide back to back power to the two countries.

In fact, minister of state for power KC Venugopal recently said electricity from central and state-generating stations supplying power to discoms is not proposed to be diverted to Pakistan.

Also on the agenda is a proposal to connect New Delhi and Islamabad through direct flights. At present, direct flights are operational on the Mumbai-Karachi route.

The two sides will also discuss the idea of using India as a transit point to transport imported gas from Bombay High to Bhatinda which could help Pakistan save $100 million every year.

The talks come at a time when Pakistan has granted the most favoured nation status to India and the latter in return has reduced the number of items in the sensitive list for the former, besides allowing foreign direct investment.