India, Pak to liberalise visa regime

India, Pak to liberalise visa regime

Zardaris visit: Post- 26/11 dialogue makes steady progress: Leaders

India and Pakistan will soon sign an agreement to liberalise the bilateral visa regime to boost people-to-people contact.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday agreed that the deal to liberalize the visa regime should be signed when the home secretaries of the two countries would meet next. Singh and Zardari had a one-on-one meeting for about 40 minutes before joining each other for the lunch that Prime Minister hosted in the honour of Pakistani President. They took note of the “steady progress” in the dialogue process after it was restarted last year after a hiatus of two-and-a-half years following the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai later told journalists that Prime Minister and Pakistani President had agreed that people-to-people contact should be given priority and they had decided that the liberalized visa agreement, which had been worked out, should be signed during the next meeting of the Home/Interior Secretaries of the two countries.

Home Secretary R K Singh is likely to travel to Islamabad soon for the meeting with Pakistani Interior Secretary K Siddique Akbar.

“It was evident from the conversation (between Zardari and Singh) that both countries consider the dialogue process and the improvement of bilateral relations as being in mutual interest of the people of India and Pakistan,” Mathai said while briefing media-persons about Prime Minister’s meeting with Pakistani President. “The dialogue process would continue as planned in the months to come,” he added.

During his meeting with Zardari, Singh is understood to have lauded Pakistan for moving forward to improve bilateral trade with India. They felt that India and Pakistan should tap into the “considerable potential of bilateral economic and trade ties”.

Pakistan recently switched over to a negative list regime for trade with India, paving the way for giving its eastern neighbour the Most Favoured Nation status by the beginning of next year. India had granted Pakistan the MFN status long back. Commerce Ministers and Commerce Secretaries of the two countries had met over the past few months to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade and economic relations.

Zardari was on a day-long visit to India on Sunday, primarily for a pilgrimage to the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. He, however, not only accepted Singh’s invitation for a lunch at his residence during his three-hour-long stopover in New Delhi, but also had a meeting with his host. They also discussed developments in the region and agreed to continue to tap the potential of regional cooperation for the economic development of people of both countries.

Singh and Zardari had last met at Yekaterinburg in Russia on the sideline of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in 2009 – less than a year after 10 terrorists from Pakistan attacked Mumbai and killed at least 166 people and maimed countless others in a carnage that lasted for three days. India had suspended its Composite Dialogue with Pakistan after the 26/11.

New Delhi, however, last year restarted parleys with Islamabad, without naming the process as Composite Dialogue, but covering all the issues that the structured talks had focused on before being stalled in the wake of 26/11. The two countries last month launched the second round of post 26/11 dialogue process, with the water secretaries of the two countries meeting in New Delhi to discuss on the Tulbul Navigation / Wullar Barrage project.

The Home Secretary level talks later this month would be followed by several rounds of parleys between officials of the two countries and the agenda included counterterrorism, including progress of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan, humanitarian matters, peace and security, including Confidence Building Measures and disputes over Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)