India, Pakistan to ink new visa agreement today

Visa on arrival for senior citizens a major feature

India and Pakistan will sign three agreements, including the much-expected new visa regime, during the bilateral talks between Foreign Ministers S M Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar here on Saturday.

The new visa regime had been in the air for some time. On Friday, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik made it clear to the media that the visa agreement would be signed on Saturday.

“We are signing the new visa pact. It will be signed by me and Krishna. It is a particularly good development. It will help the elderly to visit their grandchildren across the border without hassles,” Malik said.

The main features of the agreement include group tourist visa, visa on arrival for senior citizens and children and year-long multiple entry visa for businessmen.

The other agreements that will be signed are allowing movements of groups across the Line of Control for religious purposes and cultural exchanges. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Pakistan Cultural Academy will  sign the agreement for cultural exchanges. There is, however, no final confirmation from either sides that these agreements will indeed be signed on Saturday.

The Krishna-Rabbani talks will be the highlight of the visit, which is Krishna’s second trip since 2010. There is no agenda set for the meeting although the two leaders will review the progress of the second round of meetings between the two countries.

For the first time since 2006, the joint commission meeting between the two countries will be revived and the two foreign ministers will chair it. The working groups, which have been holding meetings, will report the progress of the negotiations to them.

Terrorism issue

Krishna will raise the issue of terrorism and express his concern over the seeming lack of interest in Pakistan in bringing to book the perpetrators of the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai, while Pakistan is expected to maintain that it was in the judicial domain and the government, like in India, would not be able to do much on it.

Rabbani, in an interview on Friday, said her government had not left any stone unturned in the case.

Pakistan on its part, will bring up the Jammu and Kashmir issue as Rabbani said it was the core issue for her government.

The withdrawal of troops from Siachen would figure in the talks among other issues. However, the use of social media and sending of hate SMS and email issues, allegedly by groups in Pakistan to whip up communal passion in India, are unlikely to figure in the talks. The issue of 26/11 terrorist Abu Jundal is also unlikely to come up.

Foreign secretaries of the two countries — Ranjan Mathai and Jalil Abbas Jilani — met on Friday ahead of Saturday’s high-level talks.

Separatist warns Indo-Pak leadership

Ahead of Indo-Pak foreign ministers talks in Islamabad, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani on Friday warned both countries against pronouncing any “readymade solution” to the Kashmir issue, reports DHNS from Srinagar.

“I warn both countries that the people of Kashmir will never compromise on the movement and the countless sacrifices made so far. If any readymade solution is forced upon us (Kashmir) from outside, we will reject it and, in fact, oppose it with full vigor,” Geelani said in a statement issued before he was arrested by the police.

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