Will Manmohan-Zardari talks help ease travel norms?

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will meet Manmohan Singh for lunch during his one-day visit on April 08.

New Delhi: Political parties from Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday hoped that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari`s talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit here on Sunday would lead to easing of travel restrictions between two parts of Kashmir.

While the Congress and other parties hoped the visit would give a push to the dialogue process, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded that India should forcefully raise the issue of cross-border terrorism with the visiting leader.

Zardari will meet Manmohan Singh for lunch during his one-day visit on April 08 to offer prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer Sharif.

The two leaders are expected to hold restricted talks before they sit down for discussions with their delegations.

Zardari`s delegation includes Interior Minister Rehman Malik apart from close family members.

National Conference MP Shariffudin Shariq said the two countries should take steps to improve trade ties.

"There should not be restrictions on trade across the two sides. Confidence building measures should be strengthened. Parliament delegations should go. Passport and travel norms should be eased," Shariq said.

He said that India and Pakistan had no other option except to be friends and differences between them will be exploited by external forces.

Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh said ease in travel norms will add momentum "to winds of peace" in Jammu and Kashmir.

"There should be no visa. People on the two sides should be allowed to travel on passports," Bhim Singh said.

He said Kashmir was the main problem between the two countries and easing of travel norms will create a new atmosphere for a solution.

BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said India and Pakistan need to address "trust deficit" on the issue of terrorism.

"The most important aspect (that needs to be addressed) is lack of trust, specially on the issue of cross-border terrorism. On this issue, there is no clarity in the mind of Pakistan," Naqvi said.

He said "unless the issue of cross-border terrorism was addressed, other moves to improve ties will be difficult to implement at the ground level."

Another party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday that Pakistan should categorically be told that normal dialogue will not be possible unless it puts a stop to sponsored terrorism against India.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari welcomed steps taken by the Pakistan government towards giving Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and said taking the process forward will help both sides.

"Our expectation is that larger issue of peace and tranquillity in the region, specially the question of bringing perpetrators of 2611 to book and the export of terror get addressed," Tewari said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia said pending issues such as Kashmir, distribution of water and cross-border terrorism should be resolved through dialogue.

"There should be dialogue...people-to-people ties should improve," Acharia said.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the Prime Minister should raise the issue of "atrocities against minority Hindu women" in Pakistan.

"Women have been abducted and forced to convert. The issue should be raised. If the prime minister does not raise it, it will be unfortunate," Raut said.

He said that issues like Kashmir and cross-border terrorism will continue to be raised but there was an immediacy to the issue of "atrocities faced by minority community women in Pakistan”.

Zardari`s visit comes days after the US announcement of USD 10 million bounty for information leading to arrest and prosecution of 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed. India has upped pressure on Islamabad against Saeed following the US announcement.

Zardari`s visit will be the first by a Pakistan president in the last seven years. Pervez Musharraf was the last Pakistani president to visit India in April 2005.