India seeks KCCI proposals on visa liberalisation

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and IndustryKARACHI: Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and Joint Secretary Indian Commerce Ministry at New Delhi exchanged views on liberalisation of visa and enhancement of bilateral trade prospects.A high-level business delegation headed by Junaid Esmail Makda, Vice President met Arvind Mehta, IAS, Joint Secretary Commerce government of India. Makda said KCCI delegation discussed on possible cooperation of Indo-Pak private sectors to enhance trade.

He said in the KCCI proposals submitted to Zafar Mahmood, Commerce Secretary, a detailed annexure on trade with India was furnished. He said the KCCI supported to promote and strengthen bilateral trade ties and sign the agreement of cooperation with Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish Bombay-Karachi Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry as desired by the two governments through respective commerce ministries.

He said the cooperation between KCCI and Bombay Chamber would open the avenues of new facilitation as both chambers will issue the visa recommendation letters, exchange trade information and delegation on regular basis. He expressed his concern over prolonged timeline for issuance of Indian visas. The Indian High Commission was taking time for over 3-months to process the visa requests. He said around 400 applications for visa recommendation was lying at his desk, which was not forwarded as the recommendations submitted earlier still awaited at Indian High Commission.He highlighted KCCI also issues visa recommendation letters to the Indian businessmen who wanted to visit Pakistan on the request of their Pakistani buyers who were the members of KCCI and Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi issues business visas within a week.

Commenting on the suggestion to identify businesspersons for multiple visas by JS Commerce, he suggested not restricting the quantity rather it should be open for all genuine businesspersons maintaining trade on reciprocity basis. He suggested to ease and remove Non Tariffs barriers from Indian side so current huge trade imbalance could be narrow down in paving the way for Pakistani exports. He voiced to review the sensitive list under SAFTA, which has a blocking effect on Pakistani goods to enter into Indian markets. Informal trade of $2$3 billion (via Dubai) be converted to formal trade. Import of BT cotton and textile machinery should be allowed. All positive list items trade should be allowed through land route, which is cost effective, besides Wagah-Attari Border, the Monabao-Khokrapar border adjoining the province of Sindh should be opened for two-way trade.

Constrains on economic integration include high tariff and non-tariff barriers, inadequate infrastructure, bureaucratic inertia and political barriers on disputes.India’s tariffs remain high, especially for goods of particular interest to Pakistan, such as textiles, leather and mineral onyx, and non-tariff barriers are substantial. There are several other constraints in transportation linkages, visas and cumbersome payments and customs procedures.Joint Secretary Commerce, Arvind Mehta, IAS said, “We are on same page to increase the business/trade between two countries and our objectives is to make trade easier”. He agreed to ease and simplify the visa process and would put pressure on his Ministry and Ministry of Home Affairs in this regard. He focused there were two major problems, one visa issue and other the negative and positive list, which should be eventually addressed.

SAFTA has been ratified by all members, however even after ratification, the Pakistan side has not implemented the decisions.
He asked the VP to approach Ministry of Commerce for implementation of the decisions, which was deficiency at their end.
If any Non-Tariff Barriers are on Indian side should also be highlighted. He said he acknowledged the visa problem and trying to solve it. He suggested the KCCI to identify prominent businesspersons for multiple-entry visas who were vibrantly engaged in the businesses on whom KCCI had firm confidence and forward this list to Joint Secretary Commerce through Minister (Trade) Pakistan High Commission his recommendation and he would submit the same to Ministry of Home Affairs to accord multiple visas exempted from police reporting. This will also help Ministry of Commerce to identify the companies who are coming through the recommendations of official chambers.

JS Commerce sought proposals accordingly and stated that a reciprocal list would also be prepared from Indian side. He said this might follow supplementary lists of businesspersons. He asserted visa procedures should be liberalised, KCCI should give some workable proposals. -Dailytimes