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Joint effort to improve Indo-Pak trade

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI JULY 8. A joint delegation of businessmen from the two countries attending a conference on Indo-Pak trade today met the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and underlined the need for steps to improve bilateral trade.

The Prime Minister described the conference that brought the delegation of Pakistani businessmen to India as a positive response to his initiative and expressed the hope that it would lead to a conducive atmosphere for better ties.

What was supposed to be a courtesy call on the Prime Minister for about ten minutes turned out to be a meeting lasting about 50 minutes with businessmen from Pakistan sharing their perceptions about how better economic ties could be beneficial to the two countries.

A document listing the joint recommendations adopted by the conference held under the aegis of the India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI) was handed over to the Prime Minister. The delegation, among others, included Senator Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, IPCCI chief, and A. C. Muthiah, President, Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Co-President of IPPCI.

The joint recommendations, which came at the end of the two-day conference that concluded today, said that all items barring those goods and services that figure in the negative list should be allowed for bilateral trade. It also emphasised the need for restoring transportation and communication links as it would enormously cut cost and time of transfer of goods, services and people.

While seeking liberal grant of visas on the recommendations of IPCCI to enable businessmen to visit the other country, the recommendation says that the visas to businessmen should be valid at least for one year and for all cities.

Also, the requirement of reporting to the police during the visit and at entry and exit points should be dispensed with in the case of business visas. The document also underlines that India and Pakistan, as main players, have a major responsibility for making SAARC effective. As a step in this direction, SAARC Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which has been awaiting to be signed since 2001, should be signed and implemented at the earliest.

Observing that the two countries have complementarity of economic interests and that there was scope for improving trade, it says that, given facilitating policies and environment, bilateral trade can be increased up to $6 billion.

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