Pak pushes for PM visit, India non-committal
New Delhi: With India and Pakistan signing the much-awaited liberalised visa agreement on Saturday, it seems the two hostile neighbours are making steps to normalise the jeopardised relations.
Though both External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar expressed happiness over the improving relationship, yet the big question which still remains is whether Islamabad ever act against 26/11 perpetrators and stop exporting terror to India.
As Krishna finalised the visa deal, the Pakistani establishment pressed hard for a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but New Delhi remained non-committal and did not set a timeline.
Islamabad reiterated that it was willing to take forward its bilateral ties with India, stressing the relationship should not be held hostage to the past.
While addressing the Indian media after the joint press conference with Khar, Krishna emphasised on Islamabad moving in right direction, i.e. to act against terrorism emanating from its soil.
The minister said that Dr Singh was not shying away from visiting Pakistan but Islamabad needs to give some assurance that the talks will be conclusive and will be held in a “right atmosphere". Krishna’s words can be read as a direct hint to Pakistan to show some progress in bringing the 2008 Mumbai attackers to justice.
“The visit will take place at the appropriate time, when the atmosphere is conducive and something worthwhile could come out of the talks,” Krishna said.
"It will take place when he (the PM) feels something worthwhile will come out of it. I will give my assessment of the visit to the Prime Minister," Krishna added.
Meanwhile, in a goodwill gesture, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced the immediate release of all Indian fishermen, including those who have not completed their prison terms, to mark Krishna's visit.
Krishna and Khar held talks on a wide range of issues, including terrorism, Kashmir, trade and ways to expand people-to-people contacts.
After the talks, a pact on liberalising the visa regime was signed by Krishna and Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The two countries also signed a cultural exchange agreement.
During the talks, Krishna pushed for the speedy trial of the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. "Terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security in the region," said Krishna, calling for combating terrorism in "an effective and comprehensive manner".
Krishna also tried to dispel the impression that India was going soft on 26/11 justice, making it clear that "(Pakistan) will have to take follow up action on that".
"India is not going back on it," Krishna told Indian journalists accompanying him. "There is no question of bypassing 26/11. What happened in the immediate past is very much on the table," he clarified to queries if India had agreed to overlook the Mumbai terror attack to take the dialogue process with Pakistan forward.
The visa agreement, which was struck after months of negotiations, will ease trade and travel between the two countries. The pact also includes for the first time group tourist visas, pilgrims' visas and quicker visas for businessmen.
Senior citizens, aged 65 and above, in India and Pakistan can now walk across the border between the two countries and need not go through the hassles of getting a visa from embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad.
Under the new arrangement, senior citizens will be granted a visa on arrival valid for 45 days.