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16 Dec, 2012

India, Pakistan Move to Ease Visa Curbs, Boost Bilateral Business and Trade


New Delhi, Ministry of Home Affairs, 14-December, 2012 – Mr. Sushilkumar Shinde, Home Minister of India and Mr. A. Rehman Malik, Pakistan Interior Minister jointly operationalized the new Visa Agreement between India and Pakistan on 14 December, 2012 at New Delhi. However, the Visa-on-Arrival will come into effect from 15 January, 2013 and the Group Tourist Visa from 15 March, 2013. A Circular to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs today to all the Indian Missions, State Governments/ Union Territories, Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs), FROs and all concerned.

Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan had signed on 8th September, 2012, a new Visa Agreement to facilitate travel for the nationals of both countries desirous of travelling to the other country and to promote people to people contact.

Key features of the new Visa Agreement are as below:

Visitor Visa

• Places of visit allowable increased from three to five places

• In exceptional cases visitor visa for one year could be issued in the past. Now provision made for issue of visa upto two years in following cases:

a. Persons above 65 years of age

b. National of one country married to national of the other country.

c. Children below 12 years accompanying parents in (b) above

Visa on Arrival can be granted at Attari/Wagah check-post to persons more than 65 years of age for 45 days with single entry (effective from 15th January, 2013).

Business Visa

Exemption from Police Reporting for Business visa granted to businessmen with an annual income above Pak Rs. 5 million or equivalent or annual turnover above Pak Rs. 30 million or equivalent.

Group Tourist Visa

• Group Tourist Visa for 30 days may be issued for travel in groups, with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members in each group, organized by approved tour operators/travel agents (effective from 15th March, 2013).

Entry and exit

• Now entry and exit from different designated Immigration Check Posts can be allowed, if indicated in application.

• However, exit from Wagha/Attari on foot cannot be accepted unless the entry was also on foot via Attari/Wagah.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Shinde said that the New Visa Agreement will facilitate easy movement of people across the two countries. In turn, Mr.  Malik said that he has come to India with a message of peace and assured that Pakistan Government will take all possible steps to work together with India for moving forward for the sake of future generations.

During the visit of Pak Interior Minister, the Indian and Pakistan delegations also held a bilateral meeting on issues that include counter terrorism border management, fake Indian Currency Notes and cooperation among security and investigation agencies.

The official delegation accompanying the Pakistan Interior Minister includes Members from Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Federal Administration and High Commission of Pakistan in India.

Trade Normalisation with Pakistan

The following information was included in the Year End Review for 2012 issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India, on 15 Dec 2012

The bilateral meetings and discussions of the Trade and Commerce Ministers of India and Pakistan (September-2011, February-2012 and April-2012) provided a strong political impetus to enhanced economic engagement. The transition towards full normalisation of trade relations with India was initiated by moving from a ‘positive list’ regime to a ‘negative list’ regime. Following the visit of Commerce Minister Mr Anand Sharma to Pakistan in February 2012, the Pakistan side notified its negative list on 20th March 2012. This process needs be taken to its logical end by phasing out the negative list and eventually according the Most Favoured Nation status to India

In addition to this, more steps were taken to improve the bilateral trade relations, which included:

(i) A liberalised visa regime for business persons was also agreed between both the nations which is likely to be implemented soon.

(ii) Separate Joint Expert Groups were set up to examine the feasibility of trade in electricity and initiate trade in petroleum products.

(iii) Central Banks of both countries are working out modalities for opening of bank branches in each other’s countries.

(iv) Inauguration in April 2012 of the state of the art Integrated Check Post at Attari helped businessmen on both sides to expand trade by the Attari-Wagah land route.

The Government of India also approved the reduction of 30% (264) tariff lines from the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Sensitive list for Non Least Developed Countries (NLDCs) allowing the peak tariff rates to reduce to five per cent within three years, as per agreed SAFTA process of tariff liberalisation. This shall reduce India’s Sensitive list for Pakistan from 878 to 614 tariff lines. With this decision, India has effectively performed its lead role in harmonising the SAFTA framework and ensuring move towards a vibrant economic community and move towards normalisation of trade relations with Pakistan.

India has, in the last one year, steered the trade liberalisation process under SAFTA so as to accelerate the pace of the process for SAFTA Economic Integration. A major step taken in this direction was to unilaterally reduce its sensitive list for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) under SAFTA, in November 2011, to 25 tariff lines thus allowing all other imports at zero basic customs duty. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal benefited as a result of this trade liberalisation move.