India, Pak fail to ink pact on visa regime

India, Pak fail to ink pact on visa regime

India and Pakistan on Friday failed to ink the much anticipated liberalised visa regime and merely agreed to expedite the process, as Islamabad insisted on political participation.

However, during the Home Secretary-level talks here, the two sides agreed to enhance cooperation between their investigative agencies on issues of mutual concerns, including the 26/11 attacks. Islamabad also agreed in principle to receive an Indian judicial commission for probe into the Mumbai attacks.

At the meeting between Home Secretary R K Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khwaja Siddique Akbar, the two countries agreed that terrorism poses continuing threat to peace and full normalisation of bilateral relations.

A joint statement issued by India and Pakistan after the two-day talks said they agreed to sign a new visa agreement at an early date. Though Indian officials were expecting the visa pact to be signed at the conclusion of the talks, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said earlier in the day the agreement involved important issues and should be concluded at the political level. Meanwhile in New Delhi, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai attributed the failure to sign an agreement to “some delay in the procedure” in Pakistan and its Interior minister’s desire for political participation in the exercise.

India had gone to the Home Secretary-level talks in Islamabad “fully prepared” to sign the visa agreement as per the decision taken during the discussion between Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April this year, he told reporters. Ahead of the talks, Indian officials had said the two sides had given the finishing touches to a new relaxed visa regime that would for the first time include tourist visas, visas on arrival for senior citizens and children and year-long multiple-entry visas for businessmen.

The Pakistani side informed the Indian team led by Singh that “some internal approvals were under process and the agreement will be signed once they are in place.” On the Mumbai attacks issue, the Pakistani government has acknowledged that the conspiracy was hatched on its soil but the trial of the seven accused, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, has been stalled due to technical issues.

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