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India open to country's private banks in Pakistan

Posted on Nov 29, 10:56PM | IANS

India Thursday told Pakistan both countries need to enhance economic engagement through setting up of bank branches in either's territory and opening up of more trade routes.

"Let both the countries quickly establish two bank branches first. We may also look at the possibility of expanding and bringing in some private sector banks," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told a business delegation from Pakistan headed by Ali S. Habib.

He said India is keen to open more trade routes between the countries to boost bilateral commerce.

"We are keen on Khokhrapar-Munabao...In our state of Punjab, they want opening up of more border points and also in Rajasthan. I believe there is a similar desire from the Pakistan side so that other states of Pakistan are also connected," Sharma said.

Sharma emphasised the early operationalisation of visa regime and requested the delegation to convey that Pakistan should finish the process as early as possible.

India and Pakistan signed a new visa agreement on Sep 8 in Islamabad. Once implemented, the agreement will lead to liberalising of the bilateral visa regime and introduction of a number of measures aimed at easing travel, including visits for business purposes.

"The new visa Agreement has still not come into force. Pakistan needs to indicate its readiness to bring into force the new visa agreement. We are ready to do so," Sharma told the delegation.

Sharma said that both countries need to continue moving forward towards a non-discriminatory trade regime.

"Pakistan government has taken some steps to move towards full normalisation of trade relations with India by making the transition from a 'Positive list' to a 'Negative list' for imports from India. This process must be taken to its logical end by phasing out the negative list and eventually according MFN status to India."

On foreign direct investment, the minister asked the Pakistan business leaders to seek assistance from 'Invest India' - a vehicle to guide investments into the country.

The 11-member business delegation is here on a three-day visit. Habib said tremendous opportunities existed for business communities from both the countries.

"In so many sectors we can cooperate. India produces all kinds of raw materials and products that Pakistan is importing. Pakistan is very strong in textiles," he said.

He said there is a need to focus on issues like logistics, transportation, better visa regime and more points for flow of goods between the countries.

The bilateral trade between the two countries currently stood at USD 2.7 billion.

The members of the delegation briefed the minister regarding the issues being faced by them in their business transactions with India.