The Indian government has relaxed visa policy for SAARC countries including Pakistani businessmen, granting them a three-year multiple-entry business visa, allowing them to visit 15 places in India first time.

The SAARC Chamber had been raising the visa issue at all forum since long and now it had succeeded in persuading the Indian government to issue multiple entry visa. The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Iftikhar Ali Malik expressed the hope that the facility would result in increased trade among SAARC countries and especially between India and Pakistan in coming years.

Iftikhar Malik, quoting the Indian State Minister for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, stated that instructions were issued by the Indian government in July last regarding grant of multiple-entry business visa for a period of up to three years to a special category of Pakistani businessmen of assured standing and credentials.

The business visa can be granted for a period of up to five years or for a shorter duration as per the requirement to the nationals of SAARC countries except in case of nationals of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. While citizens of Nepal and Bhutan do not require any visa to enter India, certain category of Pakistani nationals are presently eligible for grant of multiple-entry business visa for a maximum period of one year and restricted to 10 places.

During the SAARC summit in Kathmandu last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced business visas with three to five years’ validity for citizens of all SAARC member states. The step was aimed at boosting regional trade across South Asia.

SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice-President has appreciated the Indian government decision to allow three-year multiple entry visa facility to Saarc country’s businesspeople. He said that SAARC Chamber had been raising the visa issue at all forum and recently the issued was raised in a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner, which resulted in a positive response from the Indian government.

Iftikhar Malik was of the view that Pakistan and India were nuclear powers and they must jointly work towards betterment of the region. He also called for taking immediate measures to save Pakistan from turning into a “water scarce” country. He said that countries like China, the US and India had achieved tremendous progress by timely building dams on their river systems. He said that only water reservoir projects can save the future generations from poverty, hunger and other issues.

S. Muneer, President, India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI) said that frequent visits of business community of both the countries would not only improve political relations but also boost two-way trade and investment. He further said that all member states of SAARC wanted early resolution of political differences between India and Pakistan. He also emphasized the need of frequent exchange of trade delegations between SAARC countries to strengthen trade.