No liberalised Indo-Pak visa regime yet

India and Pakistan failed to ink the much anticipated liberalised visa regime, merely agreeing to do it an an early date.

Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Friday failed to ink the much anticipated liberalised visa regime, merely agreeing to do it an an early date after Islamabad insisted on political participation.

However, during the Home Secretary-level talks here, the two sides agreed to enhance cooperation between their investigative agencies on issues of mutual concerns, including the 26/11 attacks.

Islamabad also agreed in principle to receive an Indian judicial commission for probe into the Mumbai attacks.
At the meeting between Home Secretary R K Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khwaja Siddique Akbar, the two countries agreed that terrorism poses continuing threat to peace and full normalisation of bilateral relations.

A joint statement issued by India and Pakistan after the two-day talks said they agreed to sign a new visa agreement at an early date.

Though Indian officials were expecting the visa pact to be signed at the conclusion of the talks, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said earlier in the day that the agreement involved important issues and should be concluded at the political level.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai attributed the failure of the signing of the agreement to "some delay in the procedure" in Pakistan and its Interior Minister`s desire for political participation in the exercise.

India had gone to the Home Secretary-level talks in Islamabad "fully prepared" to sign the visa agreement as per the decision taken during the discussion between Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April this year, he told reporters.

But "we also have reports that the Pakistani side referred to some delay in its procedure and the Pakistan Interior Minister`s desire for political participation" in signing of the visa pact, Mathai said.

"Both sides had attached a lot of importance on signing the visa agreement", he added.

Ahead of the talks, Indian officials had said the two
sides had given the finishing touches to a new relaxed visa regime that would for the first time include tourist visas, visas on arrival for senior citizens and children and year- long multiple-entry visas for businessmen.

The Pakistani side informed the Indian team led by Singh that "some internal approvals were under process and the agreement will be signed once they are in place".

On the issue of Mumbai attacks, the joint statement said Islamabad had "agreed in principle to receive a judicial commission from India" to probe the deadly assault on the Indian financial hub in November 2008.

"In this regard, modalities, mandate and composition of the commission will be worked out through diplomatic channels.

"Pakistan side reiterated its commitment to bring all the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice expeditiously in accordance with due process of law," the statement said.

The Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and its founder, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

The Pakistan government has acknowledged that the conspiracy behind the attacks was hatched on its soil but the trial of seven accused, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, has stalled due to technical issues.

Malik had further said both sides had exchanged dossiers on terrorism-related issues and that Pakistan had received additional evidence from India against Hafiz Saeed.

However, he said Pakistani authorities could not act on the basis of "hearsay" and that they would examine the evidence against Saeed.


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