India, Pak should have free info flow: FM

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said some progress has been made about visa restrictions but still there are hindrances which can be addressed.

New Delhi: Favouring free flow of information between India and Pakistan, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said some progress has been made about visa restrictions but still there are hindrances which can be addressed.

"There should be a free flow of information. Naturally when I am suggesting that there should be free flow of information sometimes the visa restrictions which are applicable to even journalists could be eased," Mukherjee said during a discussion at the 10th anniversary celebrations of the South Asia Free Media Association here.
"I think we took some decisions about relaxation of visas and some progress has been made. But still there are some hindrances which can be addressed," he said.

Earlier speaking at the same forum, BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha also favoured relaxation of the visa regime.

Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar said, "Ajmal Kasab did not get a visa to come to Pakistan. Why are you making it difficult for people to come and meet their families?"

Asked about his opinion on the visit of Parliament delegations from both the countries, he said, "this is a question of Parliament. Parliamentary delegations are not handled by the government but by the Speakers."
The Finance Minister also said that he would welcome if talks between such delegations are kept away from the media glare initially.

"I would also welcome the suggestion that if the exchange of Parliamentarians is aimed to have some positive impact... in the initial stage I would like to avoid interaction with the media so that they can make some positive contribution to influence the decision makers," he said.

Mukherjee said that the signing of the SAARC agreement on trade at the 16th SAARC summit in April should strengthen economic cooperation by expanding intra-regional investments and production opportunities.

"I hope the ratification of these agreements by other countries would help realise the full potential of services," he added.

Mukherjee said that inter-regional cooperation has strengthened physical connectivity and has helped overcome the global economic and food crisis.

"We can take satisfaction from the fact that SAARC has emerged as the service provider for the economic and development needs of the people of the region. People to people activity should continue," he added.