India and Pakistan visa agreement next step towards Most Favoured Nation status

Pakistan's high commissioner to India Shahid Malik announced this week that India and Pakistan may soon finalise a new visa agreement in order to boost business ties between the two countries. This is the next step towards reducing trade barriers and finalizing Pakistan's Most Favoured Nation status to India.

A country grants this status to another nation if it is interested in increasing trade with that country. Countries achieving most favored nation status are given specific trade advantages such as reduced tariffs on imported and exported goods. The status is enforced by the World Trade Organization.

Malik made the announcement at the launch of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India's new study on bilateral trade potential after Pakistan grants the Most Favoured Nation status to India. The study will determine how much the Most Favoured Nation status will affect economic development.

According to Malik, the visa agreement and will be finalised during the upcoming talks between the two countries' home secretaries scheduled for later this month. He said that India and Pakistan are working towards the visa agreement as part of the Most Favoured Nation status to reduce barriers for greater trade and economic ties.

"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," Malik said. He noted that the visa issue was one of the biggest issue holding back bilateral trade talks between India and Pakistan and that the new agreement will remove this barrier.

"We have identified the non-tariff barriers and during the commerce minister Anand Sharma's vist to Pakistan these were discussed. One of the biggest barriers is the denial of visa to Pakistani businessman," said Malik. "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."

According to Malik, the new visa agreement will provide multiple-entry one year visas to business people accredited by the commerce chambers of both India and Pakistan. Although, Malik did note that the visa would not be valid for individuals to travel to all parts of the country.

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