A step forward

LD report:

Wagah-Attari border Taking a step forward in the right direction, India and Pakistan have agreed to allow round-the-clock movement of trucks and containers through their main Wagah-Attari border crossing to take a step forward towards regional cooperation.

The trade ministers of the two countries meeting recently also approved a liberalized visa regime for businessmen to help expand two-way trade, which was barely $2.5 billion in 2012/13 fiscal year against a potential $10 billion.

“We have agreed that we will open Wagah-Attari border 24/7 for trade,” Anand Sharma, India’s trade minister said referring to the main border crossing in Punjab. The border gates at the moment are open only from dawn to dusk.

“For a robust economic relation to develop, businessmen of both sides need to visit each other’s country. (There is) need for further liberalisation of visa regime,” Sharma said.

In turn, Pakistan’s commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan announced that State Bank of Pakistan had proposed its Indian counterpart grant banking licenses to three Pakistani banks, a move which would be reciprocated by his side.

“In the banking sector we are hoping to have some progress, very rapid progress,” he said adding that Pakistan has been waiting for the Reserve Bank of India to nominate banks that could be allowed to open branches in Pakistan.

The Indian trade minister next said this would lead a business delegation to Pakistan next month while both ministers agreed to convene meetings of the technical working groups of customs, railways, banking, standards organisations and energy.

The two ministers then announced that several sub-committees have been formed to enhance trade cooperation in diverse sectors including textiles, in energy, engineering, pharmaceuticals and tourism

With the objective of enhancing bilateral trade opportunities, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan has also agreed to stage an “India Show” in Lahore mid-February, 2014 with artists from both sides of the border performing to highlight the common heritage of the neighbors.

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