Moving beyond past, India, Pakistan ink visa pact (Third Lead)

September 8th, 2012 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 8 (IANS) Underlining their will not to be held hostage to the past and script a new chapter in their relations, India and Pakistan Saturday signed a pact to liberalise their visa regime to promote greater trade, travel and people-to-people contacts between the two neighbours.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani 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.

Terming the visa pact as the “big first step in normalizing relations” between India and Pakistan, Khar pushed for forging a people-centric and development-centric relationship between the two countries.

Addressing a joint press conference, both Krishna and Khar spoke about moving beyond the past to forge a new relationship.

“Let’s not be held hostage to whatever has been held earlier. Let’s walk the talk together and look ahead to the future,” Krishna said.

“Let’s hope a new chapter is written which is beneficial to both sides,” he said, adding the discussions were held in a “cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

Khar, on her part, exhorted both countries to move beyond the negative mindset. “We must move outside the negative mindset and take a positive attitude to resolve all issues,” Khar said.

“We are willing to forge ahead without being held hostage to the past,” she said.

She stressed on developing people-centric and development-centric relations between the two countries.

“This is the vision behind Pakistan’s abiding commitment to normalising relations with India. By December, we will treat traders from India like traders from any other country,” she said, alluding to Pakistan’s in-principle decision to grant Most Favoured Nation status to India.

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”.

The visa agreement, which was struck after months of negotiations, will ease trade and travel between the two countries.

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.

Senior citizens will be granted visas on arrival at the Attari and Wagah border in India and Pakistan respectively.

Under the new arrangement, senior citizens will be granted a visa on arrival valid for 45 days.

The visa agreement also includes group tourist visas and quicker visas for businessmen.

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