Relaxations in visa norms and liberalisation of trade in select sectors are set to dominate the one-day India-Pakistan bilateral trade talks scheduled for Friday. Pakistan?s commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma. Both ministers will then proceed to Attari near Amritsar for inauguration of the second Integrated Check Post (ICPs) between the two countries. Wagah is the first ICP between Indian and Pakistan.
The meeting also comes at a time when India is in the process of allowing selective foreign direct investment from Pakistan. Interestingly, Pakistan is one of the country with whom India has fastracked its bilateral trade talks in the last 12-months. So far, both countries have held three secretary-level talks, six joint secretary level talks and two trade minister level talks.
Fahim, who will reach the Capital on Thursday evening, is also expected to push for duty-free access of textiles and garments from Pakistan into Indian markets and liberalisation of trade in sectors like textiles, cements, electricity and petroleum. Even the commerce secretaries of both countries ? Zafar Mehmood and Rahul Khullar ? are holding talks to prepare the ground work for their respective ministers.
Currently, the bilateral trade between the two neighbours stands at $2.7 billion but is pegged to reach $8 billion within next three years. Both sides are also expected to ease the movement of businessmen and traders by issuing multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for business community as part of the efforts to make bilateral trade and economic ties stronger. Pakistan is expected to grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status by the end of this year and these talks are considered crucial steps in that direction, trade analysts said.
It is likely that once the new visa agreement is signed it will facilitate multiple-entries for businessmen from both sides on no-reporting basis for one year at a time.
This issue was also discussed during the recent meeting between Pakistan?s President, Asif Ali Zardari, and the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.