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India, Pakistan industry chiefs for easy visa

Syed Yawar Ali Shah in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Business leaders from India and Pakistan today made a strong pitch for the easing of visa rules.

The move comes weeks before foreign secretaries of the two neighbours are slated to meet in Islamabad, where New Delhi is expected to take up the issue of Most Favoured Nation status..

“The biggest non-tariff barrier between both countries is the issue of visa. When businessmen don’t meet, you can’t do business,” Syed Yawar Ali Shah, co-chairman of India Pakistan Joint Business Forum (IPJBF), told reporters here at the end of a two-day council meeting.

Shah, former CEO of Nestle Pakistan, said, “The visa regime is a key area and we need to open up.”

In today’s meeting both sides took stock of the progress made by the task-forces on agriculture and energy. “Energy has been identified as one of the high potential areas. Under this, we are planning to export power to Pakistan and obtain raw material such as coal in return,” Sunil Kant Munjal, chairman of the IPJBF, said at a conference organised by the CII.

The IPJBF has identified 10 areas of cooperation: Agriculture; automotive and engineering; chemical and petrochemicals; infrastructure; pharmaceuticals; information technology; textiles; education and vocational training; healthcare, and dispute resolution and trade facilitation.

The IPJBF is a government notified body with members from the private sector. It was created in 2012 to establish robust business ties between the neighbours and smoothen some of the irritants that create hurdles in a normal trading relationship.

The meeting dealt with non-discriminatory markets access, relaxing business visa regime and the easing of non-tariff barriers. The task force on auto and engineering is examining a list of auto components that can be traded.

“We are trying to identify what components India can export to Pakistan, which other countries are already exporting,” Sikandar M. Khan, chairman Pakistan Business Council said. However, the opening of bank branches in both the countries could take some more time.

 
 
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