Pak Cabinet Ratifies 5 Agreements Signed With India
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Pakistan's cabinet today ratified five recent agreements with India, including a landmark visa pact aimed at easing restrictions on several categories of travellers, including senior citizens and businessmen.

Three of the agreements ratified by the cabinet during a meeting chaired this afternoon by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf are aimed at boosting trade between the two countries.

The visa agreement was signed by then Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad on September 8.

The pact was ready for signing as far back as May but was held up solely due to opposition from Malik, who had wanted his Indian counterpart to come to Pakistan to ink it.

The agreement introduces new categories for group tourist visas and pilgrim visas and eases restrictions on travel by senior citizens, businessmen and persons of one country married to a citizen of the other.

It has been welcomed by people on both sides of the border.

"The ratification of this visa agreement will open new avenues and the new visa regime will be implemented," Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told a news conference this evening.

The three trade agreements were signed on September 21 at the conclusion of two-day talks between the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries.

One agreement covers cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters while another is aimed at redressing trade grievances.

The third agreement between the Bureau of Indian Standards and the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority is aimed at conforming standards in the two countries.

"These agreements were ratified so that tariff and non-tariff barriers are removed and trade between the two countries can be improved," Kaira said.

The two sides are also discussing other measures aimed at boosting bilateral trade and cooperation in new areas like opening of bank branches and cross-border investments.

The two countries have said they intend to increase bilateral trade to six billion dollars by 2014.

The fifth agreement ratified by the cabinet is a memorandum of understanding between the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations for cooperation in cultural matters.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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