India and Pakistan may relax visa norms for business travel by the end of this month, Pakistani High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik said in New Delhi Monday.
Malik said the issue was discussed by officials during a lunch hosted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in honor of Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari.
Last year, Indian and Pakistani officials had finalized a draft of the new visa regime during a meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) of both the countries held in New Delhi.
If approved by both the governments, the new visa regulations will allow multiple entry visas to business travelers for up to one year.
I feel that this will be one of the biggest achievements of the new visa (regime) that importance of businessmen has been recognised by both the nations, Malik was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India (PTI).
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However, the proposed visa regulation will not allow travel to all parts of the country, he added, while speaking to media during the launch of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India's (ASSOCHAM) new study on bilateral trade potential after Pakistan granted the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India. India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in the mid-1990s.
Malik said the new visa rules will apply to only those businessmen whose credentials are certified by the commerce chambers of both the countries – India’s FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and Pakistan’s FPCCI (Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry).
India and Pakistan signed the existing bilateral trade visa agreement in 1974. With the new visa agreement, expected to be signed during the meeting of home secretaries later this month, the countries hope to overcome their “biggest barrier” to bilateral trade.