NEW DELHI - Seeking closer ties through a sustained talks process and a step by step approach to solve outstanding issues, India and Pakistan are likely to sign a “liberalised visa agreement” when their home secretaries meet in Islamabad next month, Indian External Affairs minister SM Krishna said on Wednesday.
Krishna was speaking to the Lok Sabha about the April 8 daylong visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to India during which he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over lunch.
“The two leaders (Manmohan Singh and Zardari) felt that priority needed to be given to issues of people-to-people contacts. In this context, they decided that a liberalised visa agreement which has been worked out should be signed during the next meeting of the home/interior secretaries,” Krishna said.
The home secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, in the pipeline since December, are likely to take place in Islamabad by the end of May. Home Ministry sources said Islamabad had been asked to give fresh dates for the talks - sometime after May 22 when the ongoing budget session of parliament ends.
The sources said easier travel and visa procedures were aimed at boosting trade ties so that businesspersons from the two countries traveled without hassle.
The proposal also includes non-business visas for divided families, particularly for those aged over 65 years, and for those wanting to attend marriages and funerals.
Krishna said Manmohan Singh and Zardari met for about 40 minutes for “friendly and constructive discussions covering India-Pakistan relations, regional and global issues of common interest”.
The minister said Singh raised the issue of terrorism and anti-India activities of Laskhar-e-Tayyaba founder Hafiz Saeed from Pakistani soil.
“It would be evident that our concerns on terrorism had to be addressed if the people of India are to support and sustain progress in bilateral relations.”