POLICY

 

PAK-INDIA PARLEYS OVER VISA ISSUES

 
 
Both countries likely to relax visa regime

 

From: Khalid Butt-Lahore
Sep 26 - Oct 02, 2005

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Pakistan and India are likely to negotiate issuance of country-wide visa instead of the present practice of issuing city-specific visas to each other's citizens at a meeting scheduled to be held later this month.

This was stated by Rajesh Gordhandas Kapadia, leader of a visiting delegation of Indian Merchants Chamber, while speaking to the members of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) .

LCCI President Mian Misbahur Rehman, Senior Vice President Sohail Lashari and Vice President Sheikh Mohammad Arshad also spoke on the occasion.

Rajesh Gordhandas said that they were informed by the high commissioner of India during their visit to Islamabad that a proposal to give visa for long period to businessmen of each other's country would also be discussed. He said that there should be more interaction between the businessmen of both the countries to improve the bilateral trade. He said that difficulties still exist between the two countries at various levels - political, business and social fronts. "Being businessmen we want to concentrate on trade alone and let the other problems be taken care of by those already holding dialogue at government level," he added.

Rajesh said that we should continue efforts of improving the bilateral trade. He said that it was also expected that two banks from each side would soon be granted permission to work across the border. He said in order to stem the apprehensions of their Pakistani counterparts they want 100 per cent buyback agreements, adding that once the 100 per cent buyback agreements are initiated, there would be no danger to the economy of any country, either it is Pakistan or India.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Mian Misbahur Rehman said that Pakistan and India have tremendous potential for bilateral trade but the trade between the two countries has remained captive to the existing atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We believe that the major breakthrough in bilateral trade would come after SAFTA becomes functional from January 2006 and the political issues between the two countries are resolved on the principles of justice and equity. He said after independence, India was Pakistan's most important trading partner. In 1948-49, 56 percent of Pakistan's total exports were directed to the Indian market, and 32 percent of its imports came from India. Lahore and Amritsar were important economic hubs, as trade flourished with a free flow of goods and services. However, by the early 1950s trade between the two countries reduced to a very small level and has not revived then since.

The LCCI President said the strategic location of Pakistan and India is recognized as an ideal one in the world. The enhanced business and trade ties between the adjacent states can help end poverty in this region. It will not only give them prominence but also provide leverage to play a global role. We are of the view that increasing trade and economic cooperation between the two countries is of crucial significance in South Asia. He said the trade between India and Pakistan has been at the dismal level and has averaged around US$ 284.14 million over the past 5 years. Pakistan's trade with India was hardly 0.30% of its total trade during 2003-04. It is very interesting to note that while the imports from India increased from US$ 127.4 million in 1999-00 to US$ 382.6 million in 2003-04 i.e. by 200%, the exports of Pakistan to India increased by 75% only from US$ 93.7 million during 2003-04. Pakistan has always experienced a deficit balance of trade with India. The deficit would increase manifold if the trade through third countries such as Dubai and Singapore are taken into account.

Mian Misbah said that apart from traditional trade, there are also tremendous opportunities of cooperation in medicines and health sector, where India can help Pakistan in setting up international level health centres. Both India and Pakistan are agricultural economies. The agro-based and fruit processing sectors in both the countries are at different stages of development. There is ample room in this sector with bright prospects of development in Pakistan. We could also share our experience in post harvest technology to take advantage of crops going waste at present. He said Indian companies can come forward by entering into joint ventures in the fields of software development, telecommunication, information technology, computer engineering, bio-technology, light engineering, foundry machinery items, metallurgy, precious and semi precious gemstones and petrochemicals. Joint ventures will increase interest in each other's countries and provide opportunity to utilize potentials available in India and Pakistan.

BRITANNIA-WISE, HERITAGE CONSULTING SIGN ACCORD

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) plans to set up institute of excellence to promote higher education and skill development in the country.

"We are already running two institutions to fulfill our social obligations - namely, Shalimar Hospital and the other Lahore Businessmen Association for Rehabilitation of Disabled (LABARD)," said LCCI Senior Vice-President, Sohail Ahmad Lashari while speaking at a MoU signing ceremony.

The agreement was inked between a British consultancy firm 'Britannia-Wise Group UK' with a Pakistani entity 'Heritage Consulting' to help and support the local community, especially students and business persons, for their socio-economic and professional development. Under the agreement Britannia-Wise Group in collaboration with Heritage Consulting will set up 14 Britannia Resource Centers throughout Pakistan during next few months to extend support services like facilitating promising students to get admissions in international colleges and universities, helping local businessmen to collaborate with UK business community for promotion of mutual business, immigration and visa services, professional training, skills development and placement.

Welcoming the agreement, the LCCI SVP, Sohail Lashari, said that it was the need of the hour that we should go for skill development and higher education if we want to cope with the fast changing world of today. He said that the LCCI wanted to set up a higher education institution as good as LUMS which ultimately go for scholarships and job placement.

Giving a presentation on this occasion, Director International Development Britannia-Wise Group, Imran Mehdi said that they were already operating in nine countries in the fields of education, business and a range of others. He said that they would be opening 14 Britannia Resource Centers in Pakistan including one in Lahore, which would be operative by the end of current month and two in Karachi. He said that this would be first of its kind of service in which Pakistani people would be helped by the experts of those countries where they need help.

For example, he added, if a member of this center in Pakistan wanted a service in UK or Canada or anywhere in the world, where Britannia Wise group has its network, that service would be provided by the experts of that country.

Chief Executive Heritage Consulting, Khawaja Asghar Rafiq, in his brief remarks, said that BRCs would provide equal opportunity to the students, professionals, businesspersons, corporate sector and medical and general visitors to step forward and secure their future irrespective of their geographical location.