India mulls lifting visa curbs for Pakistani business

Some may be exempted from visas altogether; New Delhi may allow investment from Islamabad.


Aditi Phadnis August 15, 2011

NEW DELHI:


The Indian government is expected to announce a new visa regime for Pakistani businesspersons, allowing for multiple entry visas and – in what would be a revolutionary step – potentially exempting some businessmen altogether from visas, subject to certain conditions.


The Indian interior ministry is examining the proposal.

A committee of experts that includes the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of Pakistan – the central banks of both countries – will be constituted to discuss ways to facilitate trade between the two countries.

Currently, companies from both sides of the border have to use banks based in New York to conduct transactions which can result in delays and raises transaction costs.

United Bank Ltd has applied to set up branches in India while the State Bank of India – a government-owned financial conglomerate – has expressed interest in setting up branches in Pakistan. The committee will also discuss means of facilitating investments from Pakistan to India, which are currently banned. Pakistan, however, allows foreign investment from any country, including India.

The proposal to ease the visa regime will be discussed next month when the committee on non-tariff barriers (NTBs) meets. The matter would also be debated during the upcoming meeting of both the commerce ministers of India and Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma extended a formal invitation to his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim, but there has been no official confirmation yet. This will coincide with the meeting of both commerce secretaries – Rahul Khullar and Zafar Mahmood – as well.

Pakistan had earlier stated it would grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by October, as it is required to do under its treaty obligation to the World Trade Organisation.

Pakistani businessmen have a number of complaints about doing business in India. There are often delays in visas, which are frequently rejected without assigning any reason. Indian businessmen have the same kind of problems in Pakistan.

Small and medium enterprises owners are especially harassed because they do not have the wherewithal to bypass police verification, which is mandatory upon arrival in India entailing a tedious process of filling up forms and examination of a number of documents resulting in wastage of time and money.

Pakistani consignments reaching India have to undergo a rigorous process of checking. The samples are taken to the labs in Kolkata all the way from Mumbai which sometimes results in delays lasting months.

Yet trade between the countries is substantial, valued at $1.9 billion in 2011. However, the volume of business that passes through Dubai is estimated to be even higher.

Textiles and agro-based industries’ products are the main items of trade between both the countries. Some of the main items of trade include cement, soda ash, chemicals, cotton, rock salt, tea and jute. In fiscal year 2011 India’s export to Pakistan topped $1.6 billion compared to Pakistan’s export to India at $275 million.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.

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COMMENTS (59)

Surya | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

@Kamran khan: No problem..You can continue to live in 17th century..Your madrassa education is only fit for that..Don't use the Internet "invented" by Americans.

Karan | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

Its about time..

India has constantly been trying to convey to the Pakistani establishment.." TRADE, TRADE,TRADE".. sure this will probably benefit India more( since it has greater exporting prowess), but cheaper goods for Pakistan will obviously benefit the local economy, especially considering the high level of inflation and economic depression prevalent there at the moment.

Trade and commerce will lead to greater people-to-people contact which in due course of time will allow for more growth of trust. Security is obviously a key concern here for both nations.

As for Kashmir, which somehow always manages to find itself in the middle of everything related to Pakistan, that issue will probably be sorted through porous/soft borders eventually. Neither India nor Pakistan is going to let go of what they currently control(or china).

Isolation does not lead to peace. America realised that through China in the 70's and is doing so with Iran at the moment as well. India has no reason to isolate Pakistan, except for the constant security threat she faces.

The common Indian is as curious of Pakistan and vice versa. Hopefully and eventually an easier visa tourist scheme will eventually fall into place for the common citizens as well.

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