Strengthening ties: India considering access to Pakistani SIM cards



KARACHI: Indian Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher has written to the home ministry asking that mobile phone SIM cards issued in Pakistan be allowed access in India,Economic Times reported.

Kher wrote that this unilateral move will enhance business and trade ties between the two neighbouring countries. He further added that Pakistanis travelling to India on visas are not terrorists, according to the Indian business newspaper.

The commerce secretary’s letter comes ahead of a meeting between Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Pakistani counterpart Khurram Dastgir Khan, scheduled for July 24.

This will be the first bilateral meeting between ministers of the two countries since the Modi-led government took charge in May this year. Sitharaman and Khan will meet in Bhutan on the sidelines of the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) council to hold talks on bilateral trade liberalisation.

Kher has also raised the matter with the telecom department. They have reportedly said that Pakistani SIM cards may be allowed to function in India subject to the home ministry’s decision.

Although Pakistani businessmen are granted a visa allowing them to visit 10 cities in the country, they are forced to procure local SIM cards or resort to other means of communication.

Similarly, Pakistan does not permit Indian issued SIM cards to function in its territory either.

In return, the Indian government expects Pakistan to soon grant Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to them, which will facilitate more trade, according to the Economic Times.

However, earlier Pakistan deferred the decision to grant NDMA to India in order to avoid favoring any Indian political party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Federal Minister for Commerce Engr Khurram Dastagir had said in April, insisting the programme had not been shelved.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi had generated optimism of a ‘new beginning’ in a relationship marred by decades of hostilities between the two neighbours.

The two premiers met after the ceremony and trade ties and economic revival between the two countries was discussed among other things.


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