Kohinoor Mandal

Kolkata, July 21

The proposed visit of the tea delegation from India, which was scheduled to leave for Pakistan on Saturday, has been postponed indefinitely because none of members have got their visa.

According to a senior industry official, the decision to postpone the trip was taken on Thursday. Even till late Friday evening, none of the delegation members had received the necessary Pakistani visa.

After discussions with the office-bearers of Pakistan Tea Association (PTA), the Indian tea industry leaders have decided that a fresh set of dates would be finalised only after everyone gets the visa.

The Indian Government has already cancelled the secretarial level talks with Pakistan after the serial bomb blasts that took place in Mumbai on July 11.

The proposed trip had the necessary political clearance from the Union Government but it came before the Mumbai bomb blast.

The 15-16 member delegation was to be headed by Mr Basudeb Banerjee, Chairman of Tea Board. The team was to have visited Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar in its 7-8 day tour.

The trip was initially scheduled for July 15. Then it was postponed to July 22. "Now we have decided that we will wait for all the visas to come and then we would work out a new schedule", the official said.

However, it is not certain whether the Government would still allow the tea industry leaders to go across the border because the tension between the two neighbours have been growing over the last few days.

Apart from Tea Board, the delegation was supposed to have members from Indian Tea Association (ITA), United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) and Indian Merchant Tea Exporters Federation (IMTEF).

The proposed trip is actually a return gesture vis-à-vis a visit made by a Pakistan tea trade delegation in April this year. Pakistan, which consumes around 140 million kg of CTC tea, has been targeted by Tea Board as a major export destination.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 22, 2006)
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