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India, Pakistan ease visa restrictions

September 9, 2012
ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan agreed Saturday to ease visa restrictions, a rare concrete agreement as foreign ministers wrapped up the latest round of peace talks by promising to continue dialogue.

Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna spent two days in Islamabad, holding talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The two countries, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947, last year resumed talks that were suspended by New Delhi after terror attacks on India’s financial capital Mumbai in November 2008 that left 166 people dead.

This week’s ministerial talks came after Zardari met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a summit in Tehran last month.

A joint statement welcomed the signing of a new visa agreement which introduces a number of measures “aimed at easing travel of business persons, tourists, pilgrims, elderly and children, thereby facilitating contacts between peoples of the two countries”.

“We will move forward… We will not be held hostage to history,” Khar told a joint news conference with Krishna after signing the agreement.

“We must learn from the past and not miss any more opportunities. Pakistan is committed not to lose any opportunities. Pakistan is committed to creating new opportunities,” she said.

The joint statement also referred to a “commitment” given by Pakistan last May to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice “expeditiously”.

Pakistan charged the seven men over the 2008 Mumbai attacks in 2009, but insists it needs to gather more evidence in India before proceeding further.

New Delhi has branded Pakistan’s attempts at prosecuting the alleged conspirators a “facade” and insists it has already handed over enough evidence to convict the accused.

Both ministers “reaffirmed the strong commitment of the two countries to fight terrorism in an effective and comprehensive manner so as to eliminate the scourge in all its forms and manifestations”, the joint statement said.

Khar also announced the release of Indian fishermen “as a goodwill gesture”.

“All Indian fishermen, those who have either served their full jail term or those who have not completed their sentence, have been released,” she said.

Pakistan in June released 315 Indian fishermen, including 14 teenagers, who were held in prison for violating territorial waters.

Officials at the time said least 150 Indian fishermen are still in Pakistani jails and 250 Pakistanis in Indian prisons.



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