India, Pak ink visa pact; but concern on terror remains

India, Pak ink visa pact; but concern on terror remains

India, Pak ink visa pact; but concern on terror remains

India and Pakistan today finally made progress on people-to people contact by inking pacts on a new visa regime and cultural exchanges but there was no headway on New Delhi's concerns on the Mumbai terror attacks case, with Islamabad only assuring that it will bring to book the perpetrators as per its law.

Despite the reiteration of an invitation by Pakistan's top leadership for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit, India remained non-committal on the timing of the trip with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna saying that a "proper atmosphere" and a "worthwhile" outcome was necessary.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced immediate release of all Indian fishermen, including those who have not completed their prison terms, terming it as a "goodwill gesture" to mark Krishna's visit.

Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar reviewed the last round of talks on all bilateral issues, including, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and Siachen and chalked out the roadmap for future round of discussions. The two ministers also chaired the Joint Commission Meeting.

After the talks, Krishna drove to Interior Ministry to ink the new visa pact with Rehman Malik, who termed the signing of the pact as a "positive development" and a "gesture of friendship" from Pakistan.

At a joint press interaction, Khar, who spoke first, made no reference to terrorism in her over 15-minute opening statement but Krishna said both sides agreed that terror continues to pose a threat to peace and security.

In this regard, he said, Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to bring 26/11 perpetrators to justice expeditiously as per the Pakistani law.

Responding to a repeated question on the timing of keenly-awaited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan, Krishna said,"I am hopeful that the visit will take place" but when it will happen he cannot commit.

Krishna said that after his return to Delhi, he will give his assessment to the Prime Minister, to which Khar quickly added that she was sure that the "it will be a positive assessment".

Though both leaders asserted that their ties should not be held hostage, India made it clear that it will not "gloss over" Mumbai attacks which has happened in recent past.

Though noting that there were "positive atmospherics" in the ties, Krishna was very clear on Pakistan addressing India's terror related concerns when he later told reporters that Mumbai (terror attack) was very much on the table and it was upto Pakistan to do a follow up. He also said that "let's walk the talk."

According to sources, Pakistan was reluctant to include reference to 26/11 but India persisted and succeeded.

"The Ministers noted the commitment given by Pakistan during the Interior/Home Secretary talks in May 2012 to bring all the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice expeditiously in accordance with due process of law," the joint statement said.

From Pakistan side, issues like Jammu and Kashmir, which it termed as "core concern", Siachen and Sir Creek were raised with Khar strongly advocating forward movement on Siachen, saying the two countries should not miss out on past opportunities.

She also said the aspiration of Kashmiris should be taken into account while resolving Kashmir issue.

Maintaining that the talks were "cordial, candid and constructive atmosphere", the Ministers reviewed the status of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction on the holding of meetings on the issues of Counter-Terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial) and Narcotics Control; Humanitarian issues; Commercial and Economic cooperation; Wullar Barrage/ Tulbul Navigation Project; Sir Creek; Siachen; Peace and Security including CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir; and promotion of Friendly Exchanges.

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