Indo-Pak visa pact from next week

India and Pakistan are expected to bring into effect the new bilateral visa agreement next week during Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s visit to New Delhi on an invitation from Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Shinde on Tuesday invited Malik to visit India. “He (Malik) had earlier told me that he would like to visit Taj Mahal on his birthday on December 12. So I invited him to visit India between December 11 and 13,” the Home Minister said.

He was responding to a question on when New Delhi and Islamabad planned to implement the agreement which the two countries had earlier signed to liberalise the bilateral visa regime.

Shinde and his counterpart from Pakistan are set to discuss several bilateral issues apart from formally putting into operation the new visa agreement. India is likely to reiterate its concern over the tardy progress in the trial of the seven 26/11 mastermind’s in Pakistan.

Pakistan had earlier proposed November 22 and 23 as the dates for Malik’s visit to India.
But New Delhi conveyed to Islamabad its unwillingness to host the Pakistani Interior Minister just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The execution of Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Ajmal Kasab in Pune on November 21 triggered speculation that New Delhi might have declined to host Malik then as the Ministry of Home Affairs was secretly planning to carry out the death sentence awarded to the 26/11 gunman.

India and Pakistan signed the new visa agreement on September 8, 2011, during External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s visit to Islamabad. Pakistan ratified the agreement on October 31 and President Asif Ali Zardari accorded his approval on November 20.

“It (the new India-Pakistan visa agreement) introduces several measures aimed at easing travel between the countries for business persons, tourists, pilgrims, elderly and children. This will facilitate greater contacts between peoples of the two countries who remain at the heart of the India-Pakistan relationship,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid informed the Rajya Sabha recently.

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