New Delhi: India and Pakistan may finalise a new visa agreement soon to boost business ties between the two countries, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik said here Monday.

On Sunday, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari was here and was hosted for lunch by Prime Minister Manhmohan Singh. During the lunch on the issue of the new visa agreement was discussed,” Malik said while addressing an industry body here.

He was speaking at the launch of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India’s (ASSOCHAM) new study on bilateral trade potential after Pakistan grants the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.

According to Malik, the issue may be finalised during the an upcoming home secretary-level talks scheduled for later this month.

“The dates for home secretary talks have not been decided yet, but it is expected that it would be held soon. The visa agreement may be finalised during the talks,” he said.

Zardari was in India on a day-long visit. He had a meeting with the prime minster before heading to the shrine of revered Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer in Rajasthan.

The envoy said that the visa issue was one of the biggest impediments to bilateral trade talks and the new agreement will remove this barrier.

“The new visa agreement proposes to provide multiple entry one year non-reporting visas to the businessman accredited by the commerce chambers of both the countries.”

“We have identified the non-tariff barriers and during the Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s vist to Pakistan these were discussed. One of the biggest barriers is the denial of visa to Pakistani businessman.”

“The new visa agreement proposes to provide multiple entry one year non-reporting visas to the businessman accredited by the commerce chambers of both the countries.”

The envoy added that the talks are continuing to explore the prospects of India exporting petro-chemical and electricity to Pakistan.

Malik’s views came ahead of Pakistani Commerce Minister Amin Fahim’s visit to India on Wednesday. He will inaugurate the first-ever exhibition of lifestyle products from Pakistan at the Pragati Maidan.

“We will also see a boost coming in the trade with the inauguration of newly constructed integrated check post (ICP) at Attari. We will head out with Commerce Minister Shrama for the inauguration on April 13. The ICT is already inaugurated on our side.”

Union Home minister P. Chidambaram will formally inaugurate the ICP here Friday.

The trade between both sides is nearly $2.5bn, but is expected to go up by 4-5 times with Pakistan initiating the process to give the MFN status to India for trade.

India has already granted Pakistan MFN status in the mid-1990s. The conference was attended by a delegation of Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry from Pakistan.

Source: IANS