Indo-Pak to Explore Ways to Enhance Telecom, Air Linkages

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Islamabad – India and Pakistan are exploring possibilities to enhance telecommunication and air linkages to boost bilateral ties and trade.

The issues came up for discussions during the two-day Commerce Secretary level talks here. India’s Commerce Secretary S R Rao held the 7th round of talks on commercial and economic co-operation with his Pakistani counterpart, Munir Qureshi.

Preliminary discussions were held on possibilities of better telecommunication linkages keeping in view the requirements of business communities on both sides for international roaming facilities, a joint statement said.

“It was agreed that separate sub-groups on either side would take forward this dialogue. Commerce secretaries would review thereafter,” it said.

Both the sides also discussed ways to improve air connectivity between New Delhi and Islamabad.

“It was agreed that a Joint Working Group would be formed before 15th November, which would work out a more liberalized regime of reciprocal bilateral rights for commercial flights, to ensure economic viability of this air route,” it said.

The statement said this JWG would also explore mechanisms for more efficient courier services.

It was said that against an average of about 23 flights per week between New Delhi and other important national capitals of the SAARC countries, there is as yet no direct air connectivity between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Both the sides also signed three agreements for cooperation in customs matters, redressal of trade grievances and conforming to quality standards. The step would further normalize economic relations between the countries.

“These agreements are expected to substantially facilitate bilateral trade mechanisms,” the statement said.

These pacts are aimed at streamlining trade between the countries and seeking to remove irritants that have prevented bilateral trade from realizing its potential.

The joint statement said both sides expressed satisfaction on signing of the agreements and directed the relevant authorities to frame rules and procedures to fully implement these agreements.
During the talks, Qureshi said certifications, licensing and lab testing are not the only non-tariff barriers (NTBs). He said issues like delays in customs clearance, non- availability of railway wagons for cargo transport, absence of direct flights or any problem which delays the clearance of goods with no end results or change, faced by importer/exporter is an NTB.

He reiterated that concrete solutions for all such issues are crucial for ensuring market access in the Indian markets for Pakistani exporters.

Further, it said, that in order to frame rules and procedures to implement the two agreements signed between the Customs Authorities, it was agreed that joint working group on customs would meet in the following month either at Karachi or Mumbai. (Agencies)

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