New visa regime to top India-Pakistan talks

New visa regime to top India-Pakistan talks

India and Pakistan will discuss the roadmap of bilateral relations when their foreign ministers meet in Islamabad Saturday, with a new visa regime likely to top the agenda.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna arrives in Islamabad Friday for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.

A high point of the three-day visit could be the signing of a visa pact, but the two sides have not given a final confirmation.

Krishna and Rabbani will review the second round of the dialogue process revived in February 2011 after a long hiatus following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

The two ministers are expected to discuss all bilateral issues including those related to terrorism and Kashmir. They will co-chair the plenary of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission Saturday.

From India's perspective, expediting the trial of the Pakistanis who masterminded the Mumbai attack will top the agenda.

India has been pressing Pakistan to punish the perpetrators to create an atmosphere of confidence building.

Other issues likely to figure in the talks are confidence building measures (CBMs), release of prisoners as well as trade and border issues.

The controversy over fake SMS messages that allegedly emanated from  Pakistan, sparking an exodus of people of northeastern states from cities like Bangalore could be taken up.

Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet before the foreign ministers' meet.

The talks for a liberalized visa regime were sealed when the home secretaries of India and Pakistan met.

"We are ready to sign it. At the time of home secretary talks, we were told (by Pakistan) that there were legal and other requirements," Akbaruddin said recently.
"We are still trying to work it out so that it can be signed at the earliest," he said.
Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in Tehran last week that the issues related to the visa regime had been worked out. He hoped the pact gets signed during Krishna's visit.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Tehran last week, said that the expeditious conclusion of the Mumbai terror attack trial will be a "major" confidence building measure in bilateral relations.
Manmohan Singh said he was keen to visit Pakistan but only if a "proper atmosphere" was created by Islamabad by punishing the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage.
Pakistan and India had initiated a composite dialogue on all issues. But the Mumbai attack of 2008, which killed 166 people, halted the process. The two countries began to talk again only last year.
After spending two days in Islamabad, where he is expected to meet other dignitaries as well, Krishna will visit Lahore Sunday (Sep 9) for talks with political, business and civil society leaders there.

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