New Delhi, Nov. 14 (ANI): India on Monday welcomed the resumption of trade talks with Pakistan and expressed the hope that the visa-issuing process would be relaxed to enable businessmen from both countries to travel more conveniently for trading purposes.
Aiming to strengthen bilateral trade ties, Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan began their second round of secretary-level talks here on Monday.
Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar expressed hope that the talks would deliver, given the huge burden of expectations on both sides and said that changes were needed in the visa-issuing process so that businessmen of both countries could travel for trade more conveniently.
"We mutually recognise that the current visa arrangements are one of the most significant barriers to expanding our bilateral trade. This matter has been under active consideration and discussion, between the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and our Ministry of Home Affairs," said Khullar.
"I am told that both sides have reached a broad agreement to put in place substantial arrangements, which shall substantially liberalise visa provisions for businesspersons. We are hopeful that an agreement will be finalised during the next round of home secretary level talks slated for December 2011," he added.
Accepting with gratitude Pakistan's decision to list India as a most favoured nation (MFN) with vis-?-vis trade ties, Khullar said : "We welcome the decision recently taken by the Government of Pakistan to accord MFN status to India, and to the mandate given for full normalisation of trade relations, and also meeting all legal obligations. Barely a few days ago, our Prime Ministers met, and trade figured prominently on their agenda."
"Our political masters have given us clear directives on where we have to go. I am confident that this round will produce significant and meaningful results for our growing economic engagement," he added.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood reacting to Khullar's statement said that he has brought with him a clear political mandate for the normalisation of bilateral trade ties.
"(The) Cabinet not only gave full approval to the process, but also mandated Ministry of Commerce to take this process forward, and achieve complete normalization of trade relationship," said Mehmood.
The Pakistani Commerce Secretary further said that better trade ties between India and Pakistan would further the peace process.
"Through this meeting, we want to create an atmosphere in which the composite dialogue goes forward, and other tracks are also encouraged by the progress achieved through the trade normalisation," he added.
Progress has been slow on the trade front between India and Pakistan, but ties appeared to warm in the Maldives SAARC summit earlier this month, after Pakistan granted India most-favoured nation (MFN) status for trade.
The neighbouring countries would indulge in trade talks for two days covering a gamut of issues including removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs). (ANI)