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Fresh start to Pak trade tie

Anand Sharma and Khurram Dastgir Khan in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Jan. 18: India and Pakistan today decided to have a non-discriminatory market access (NDMA) programme, besides keeping the Wagah-Attari border open round the clock and facilitating the opening of bank branches in each other’s country.

“We have agreed that we will open the Wagah-Attari border 24X7 for trade. Central banks of the two countries in principle agreed to give licences to banks nominated by the respective governments,” commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma said at a press conference held jointly with his Pakistani counterpart Khurram Dastagir Khan.

The ministers also decided to re-start trade liberalisation, which was stalled for 16 months, and work towards non-discriminatory market access on a reciprocal basis.

Although the NDMA falls short of the expectations of a most-favoured nation (MFN) status, which India has been demanding for long, Sharma said, “It is not the first time that such a terminology (NDMA) is used.”

Khan said, “Let us not (get) stranded on nomenclature.”

According to Khan, the new term essentially meant the same and will result in the seamless flow of goods between the two countries.

India and Pakistan had started negotiations to normalise trade ties in January 2011 and had made several concessions for each other before the talks came to an abrupt halt because of violence across the Line of Control.

Pakistan is yet to extend the MFN status to India by allowing the import of all products across the border. However, it now allows the import of 6,800 items from the country, up from about 2,000 when the talks started.

At present, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is a little over $3 billion annually.

The two ministers also underlined the need for relaxing the visa regime.

“For a robust economic relation to develop, businessmen of both sides need to visit each other’s country. (There is) need for further liberalisation of the visa regime,” Sharma said.

 
 
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