In a major development on 15th February 2012, India and Pakistan agreed to ease visa restrictions for businessmen to boost bilateral trade. Islamabad also assured New Delhi to move to a small negative list of imports from India by the end of this month.
On trade front, Pakistan is expected to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by this year-end as it is likely to phase out the negative list by then.
Once the negative list is phased out, the transition to MFN status will be automatically completed. At present, Pakistan follows 'a positive list' and permits imports of only about 1,900 items from India, which gives almost full access to Pakistani goods.
Visiting Commerce and Industry Minister Mr. Anand Sharma, who is leading an over 120 people-strong business delegation, told reporters in Islamabad that he has discussed the issue of visa liberalisation with Home Minister.
He also said that the two countries will completely revise the existing bilateral visa agreement that was signed in 1974 to facilitate travel by businessmen from both the countries.
It is to be noted that, the Joint Working Group (JWG) was set up by the two countries to revise a Bilateral Visa Agreement in 1974.
Meanwhile, the two countries agreed to allow opening of two branches of their banks on reciprocal basis for which an understanding has been reached between Reserve bank of India (RBI) and State Bank of Pakistan.
New Delhi and Islamabad also signed three important pacts to improve their economic ties. The two countries signed agreements on cooperation in customs, mutual recognition of standards and for redressing trade grievances in the presence of Indian Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister Mr. Anand Sharma and Pakistani Commerce and Trade Minister Mr. Makhdoom Amin Faheem in Islamabad last evening.
In fine, such agreements and talks will make India-Pakistan relations free from tensions and strains and consequently develop their economy.