India-Pak unable to reach pact on liberalised visa regime

The much awaited liberalised visa pact that provides for group tourism visa and visa-on-arrival has not reached the way as India expected while Pakistani deferred the agreement and said to be signed at political level.

Though Pakistan had yet to complete procedures on its side, but from the first day of talks it indicated that it needed more time to finalize the deal. The two days talks were held between India’s Home Secretary RK Singh and his Pakistani counterpart KM Siddique Akbar in Islamabad.

“We had gone there prepared to sign the document according to what was decided during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to India (April [8)] ,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters.

“The Pakistani side has referred to some delays in procedures,” Mathai further added while asking about pact.

On Friday, Islamabad clearly refused to sign at much-awaited liberalised visa pact as the agreement involves important issues and should be finalised at the political level.

In front of media, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, Pakistan had decided in principle to sign the agreement on the new liberalised visa regime with India but the pact would not be signed during the current round of talks.

Reports suggested, the agreement provides tourist visas to each other’s citizens and the issue of visas on arrival at the Wagah-Attari border for senior citizens and young children.

During talks, issues related to 26/11 also discussed in which India claimed Islamabad’s continued support to terrorism. It has been said that India has shared additional evidence against Hafiz Saaed, mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Delay of the proposed visa pact was disappointment for India as the negotiations agreement on the MLAT is an important initiative by legal experts as investigations into trans-national terror cases and other crimes such as the Mumbai terror attack require cross-border cooperation. And by this, mutual cooperation in criminal matters will strengthen; the constituency of peace can be boost as people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

However, at the end of talks, Pakistan has agreed to examine the draft MLAT including additional evidence from India against Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Saeed.

Moreover, may be visa pact would be signed when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna visit to Islamabad in July, but as per information provided to media, Mr. Malik said, he would be very glad of Home Minister P. Chidambaram visit Islamabad in wake of political participation and sign the pact.

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