India bars Pakistan from attending Trade meet

India declines visas to top officials of Pakistani delegation.

Bureau Report

CHENNAI: Bilateral and trade relations between India and Pakistan continue to wobble and got another dent with India, the host country of the upcoming Asia Trade Promotion Forum (ATPF), to be held in Agra from March 5-7, barring Pakistan from attending, after the government refused to issue visa to one of Islamabad’s top officials, who was supposed to lead a delegation in the gathering.

ATPF is a multilateral trade body having 23 member countries that are represented by the trade promotion bodies of the respective countries. Some key members of ATPF are China, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines among others. It was constituted in 1987 with the objective of strengthening trade and investment opportunities with each other.

As the host country this year, the India Trade Promotion Authority (ITPO) had invited all other trade bodies of the member countries, including Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), reported the Business Standard.

However, it seems the TDAP will now remain out of the show as the Indian High Commission in Islamabad rejected the visas of Abdul Kadir Kazi, secretary, TDAP and joint secretary in Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce who was leading the delegation. The High Commission has also refused to issue visa to Nasir Hameed, director, TDAP on the grounds of late application, officials told Standard.

“We have given our recommendation letter to them. It is not very nice that Pakistan will not be able to participate. Having said that, I must say that the attendance is not always 100 per cent. This time, even Brunei will not be able to make it. Nevertheless, I am going to speak with our high commissioner in Pakistan tomorrow and try to sort out the matter but we really do not have much say in visa matters,” Rita Menon, chairperson and managing director, ITPO said.

According to the Pakistan High Commission here, both Kazi and Hameed had applied for the visa on time but were constantly asked to furnish several paperwork. “This is very unfortunate. This is not even India’s own event, it is a multilateral forum. This gives a wrong impression about India in front of other countries. If the government-to-government connection is so poor and untrustworthy, then businessmen will feel more insecure. This whole momentum of trade normalization will suffer a shock,” a senior Pakistan government official said on condition of anonymity, said the report.

The official also said that Pakistan was intimated about the development only late Friday after which it becomes difficult to put forward a revised request with the onset of the weekend.

The other two members of the delegation were Naeem Anwar, minister of trade, Pakistan High Commission and Zirgham Raza, first secretary (trade) who will now also not be able to participate in the trade meet as the visa of their delegation head got cancelled.

This is not the first time that India has shown such antagonism towards its nuclear-armed neighbor even as both vowed to simplify the visa regime for each other’s nationals, said Standard. Last month, India suspended the visa-on-arrival facility to senior citizens of Pakistan. It has also not kick-started the process of issuing group visas for Pakistan’s citizens as was promised.

According to the pact, group tourist visa would be offered for a period of 30 days to tourists traveling in groups with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members and organized by approved tour operators or travel agents.

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