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More pacts with Pak on anvil

Last updated on: April 17, 2012 15:00 IST

More pacts with Pak on anvil

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Shaikh Zoaib Saleem in New Delhi

Relations between India and Pakistan might get another boost, with the two countries planning to sign a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and looking to enter an easy business visa mechanism soon.

Companies from both sides have shown interest in entering the energy, cement, healthcare, and hospitality segments. Banking is also likely to draw some interest.

Vikramjit Singh Sahney, president of the Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Business Standard Bippa was also being negotiated and might come up along with the multiple entry business visa norms.

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Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma had on Friday said New Delhi would allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan and multiple entry business visas would be a reality soon.

"There will be a formal signing of agreement (on multiple entry business visas) soon. It will be for one year initially," Sharma had said after meeting his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, in New Delhi.

The new business visa regime is likely at the next secretary-level talks between the two countries.

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Image: Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim after crossing into Pakistan, to meet at the Wagah border post, near Lahore.
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

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Home minister P Chidambaram, while inaugurating the integrated check post at the Attari-Wagah border, said the Indian government had approved a new visa regime, but this had to be cleared by the Pak cabinet.

The rules would be "liberal for business people, for the elderly, for children and for spouses", he said.

Terming the development as positive, Sahney said industries from both sides were looking forward to entering into joint ventures in energy, cement, healthcare and hospitality sectors.

Some independent power producers from India were already in talks, he added.

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Image: A policeman looks towards Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani waving.
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

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This will also result in speeding the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, delayed only due to the lack of confidence between the countries, he said.

The Turkemenistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project may also get a boost.

"Both (Pak and India) are energy-deficient and the IPI, as well as the Turkemenistan-Pak-India pipeline are very crucial for our growth needs. These projects will get implemented sooner if relations are good," he added.

Pakistan has a rich resource base in rock salt, while raw material for garments and garments themselves from Pakistan are of a very good quality.

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Image: A boy waits for customers while sitting at his father's stall which sells metal rings at a roadside in Quetta.
Photographs: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

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The opening of bank branches in each other's territories is also being looked at. "Nishat Group from Pakistan wants to open bank branches in India," Sahney said.

The Nishat Group runs the largest private bank in Pakistan, the Muslim Commercial Bank, which has a little over 1,200 branches and a deposit base of $3.8 billion.

Ambika Sharma, deputy secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said, "Textile machinery, pharma, agro-chemicals, dyes & pigments, IT & ITeS, CNG kits, Indian banks, education services, tourism & hospitality have large potential for cross-border investments. . . Bilateral trade is expected to grow manifold if Safta is implemented in letter and spirit by Pakistan," she added.




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