India and Pakistan are expected to discuss an easier business visa regime and other trade issues. A draft proposal on relaxing the business visa regime is in its final stages. It awaits the go-ahead from the home ministry and Pakistan’s interior ministry.
Zardari is expected to take up a proposal to remove the ban on Pakistani investment into India. Now that Pakistan has taken a significant step towards granting the much-awaited most favoured nation (MFN) trade status to India, it is expected to make a strong demand for the elimination of several non-tariff barriers that restrict the entry of Pakistani goods into Indian markets, according to officials.
STATE GUESTS APLENTY AT PERSONAL VISIT
In the guest list for the PM’s lunch at
7, Race Course Road...
* UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi
* Senior BJP leader L K Advani
* Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj
* Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi
Members of the Cabinet committee on security to attend...
* Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee
* Defence minister A K Antony
* Home minister P Chidambaram
* External affairs minister S M Krishna
On the menu...
* Lunch to start with melon soup and end with ‘phirni’ and Bengali delicacy ‘goor sandesh’ for dessert
Last month, Pakistan eliminated the positive list for doing business with India, which allowed only 1,946 items to be imported. Instead, it has now introduced a negative list having 1,209 products that cannot be imported from India while another nearly 7,000 can be.
The visit also comes at a time when the newly built Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari-Wagah is going to be made operational from April 13. The ICP was supposed to be operational from October 1 last year but procedural glitches delayed it.
“I do not expect any big announcement to happen during the visit but this is no doubt a huge step in bridging the trust deficit. This visit should be seen in the larger context of all the positive developments happening in the last few months. This is clearly building up of that momentum,” said Rajiv Kumar, secretary general of industry body Ficci.
Zardari is expected to arrive in the capital at 11.30 am and will head straight to the Prime Minister’s official residence. One-on-one talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be followed by a high-profile lunch involving senior members of the delegation, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and L K Advani, and others.
Zardari’s entourage will then leave for Jaipur and subsequently fly to the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. Half an hour is scheduled to be spent at the shrine and the Pakistan President is expected to return to Jaipur by 6.15 pm. Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik will accompany the President’s entourage comprised of nearly 40 members, including family members and journalists.
This is the first presidential visit from Pakistan in the past seven years.
The visit has generated greater interest as scions of both the Gandhi family and the Bhutto clan, Rahul Gandhi and Bilawal Zardari, will come face to face.
The one-on-one meeting between Singh and Zardari will primarily focus on bilateral issues, with no aides likely to be present.
Foreign minister S M Krishna told reporters in Bangalore, “I don’t know if they will have enough time to go into details. But, as the Prime Minister is hosting a lunch, they might get a chance to discuss some bilateral issues.”