Pakistan agrees on soft visa regime but not yet signed

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) - The apparent lack of interest of the Foreign Office of Pakistan missed another chance for a soft visa regime between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan agrees on soft visa regime but not yet signed

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) – The apparent lack of interest of the Foreign Office of Pakistan missed another chance for a soft visa regime between India and Pakistan. A Joint Statement issued Friday evening indicates that both sides welcomed the finalization of the Visa Agreement and agreed to sign it at an early date. The Pakistan side informed that some internal approvals were under process and the Agreement will be signed once they are in place.

Apparently, this decision by the Pakistan government to refuse signing the visa regime was a tremendous pressure on religious parties sitting in the Pakistan cabinet – those do not want cordial relations with India unless the disputed Kashmir issue is resolved.

It was widely expected that the two Secretaries would ink the agreement on the new visa regime at the conclusion of their two-day talks today. Pakistan had decided in principle to sign the agreement on the new liberalized visa regime with India, but the pact would not be signed during the current round of talks, Malik told the media.

The agenda of the meeting between the home secretaries also included the possibility that students of the educational institutes would be eligible to apply for this visa, but it wouldn’t be valid for seeking admission to institutions.

The new recommendation proposed a six-month visa for social visits and a one-year visa with multiple entries for senior citizens, eminent persons, women of one country married to men in the other country, and their children aged below 18. At present, a maximum of 3 weeks is allowed for social visits.

In addition, visa on arrival (single entry) could be given to citizens above 65 years of age at the Attari-Wagah border post for those who are traveling by road. This will be valid for 45 days, non-extendable, and nonconvertible.

Experts believe that a soft visa regime could create a market of around
$500 million a year for each country, creating a scenario where around
$1 billion in tourism revenue will be generated between the both countries. This is a benefit for both sides of Punjabs – eastern Punjab of India and western Punjab of Pakistan – because the Wagha border will be a hub of such tourism activities, generating indirect revenue for Amartsar and Lahore.

JOINT STATEMENT ISSUED AFTER THE MEETING IS AS FOLLOWS:

1. Under the resumed bilateral dialogue, the second round of India-Pakistan Home/Interior Secretary Talks was held in Islamabad on May 24-25, 2012. The Pakistan delegation was led by Mr. K. M. Siddiq Akbar, Interior Secretary, and the Indian delegation was led by Shri Raj Kumar Singh, Home Secretary of India.

2. The meeting was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere.

3. Both sides exchanged views on the decisions taken in the last round of Home/Interior Secretary Talks held in New Delhi in March 2011.

4. Both sides agreed that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and full normalization of bilateral relations. They reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment of the two countries to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations and bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.

5. The Pakistan side provided an update on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai Terror Attacks. Both sides discussed the Judicial Commission’s visit to India from March 14-21, 2012. The Pakistan side noted that it had agreed in principle to receive a Judicial Commission from India. In this regard, modalities, mandate, and composition of the Commission will be worked out through diplomatic channels. The Pakistan side reiterated its commitment to bring all the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice expeditiously in accordance with due process of law.

6. The Home and the Interior Secretaries agreed to enhance cooperation between the NIA of India and the FIA of Pakistan on issues of mutual concern, including Mumbai terror attacks investigation.

7. India provided information on the on-going Samjhauta Express blast case investigation. It was mentioned by the Indian side that investigation in this case is still ongoing and updated information will be shared with the Pakistan authorities concerned when the investigation is completed. The Indian side agreed to forward updated information on the investigation through diplomatic channels.

8. The Pakistan side noted the technical parameters, suggested by the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), government of India, for establishing a hotline between the Home Secretary of India and the Interior Secretary of Pakistan. The Pakistan side would examine the technical parameters and revert.

9. Both sides welcomed the signing of the MOU on “Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs/Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals and related matters” during the Eighth Director General level talks between Narcotics Control Bureau of India and Anti Narcotics Force of Pakistan on Drugs Trafficking in September 2011. They expressed the hope that the MOU will help enhance mutual cooperation between India and Pakistan through effective and sustained steps to control the growing menace of drug trafficking. In this context, they also welcomed the outcome of the DG level talks, held at Rawalpindi on September 12-13, 2011, and noted the decision to hold DG level talks on Drugs Trafficking annually.

10. It was decided that CBI and FIA will schedule a meeting at an early date to work out the technical details of moving forward on issues of human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber crimes, and Red Notices (RNs). Both sides agreed to expeditiously execute all pending RNs. The Pakistan side agreed to examine issues pertaining to Letters Rogatory.

11. Both sides welcomed the finalization of the Visa Agreement and agreed to sign it at an early date. The Pakistan side informed that some internal approvals were under process and the Agreement will be signed once they are in place.

12. Both sides welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen, including those suffering from ailments, since the last round of Home/Interior Secretary Talks. They noted the need to fully implement the understanding reached during the previous Home/Interior Secretary Talks in March 2011 so that the fishermen and the civilian prisoners who have completed their sentence, and whose nationality status has been confirmed by the respective governments and whose travel documents have been received, are released without delay. It was also agreed that those fishermen who have completed their sentences will be released by both sides within three months along with their boats, except where the boats have been lost, damaged, or confiscated by the courts. It was decided that those prisoners, whose nationality status could not be confirmed either due to lack of information or due to the physical disabilities of the prisoner concerned, would be transferred to charitable institutions in India and Pakistan pending confirmation of their nationality status.

13. Both sides commended the work done by the Judicial Committee on Prisoners and agreed that their work should continue. They also agreed on the need for implementing the 2008 Consular Agreement in letter and spirit.

14. The Secretaries also exchanged views on the issue of inadvertent crossing of fishermen from both sides. The Pakistan side noted the invitation extended by the Indian Coast Guards for a meeting with the Pakistan Maritime Agency in June 2012 in New Delhi.

15. In order to strengthen mutual cooperation in criminal matters, the two sides agreed in principle to initiate negotiations on a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). In this regard, it was agreed that the Pakistan side would examine the draft of the MLAT handed over by the Indian side and revert with comments.

16. The Home Secretary of India thanked the Interior Secretary of Pakistan for the warm hospitality extended to the Indian delegation and the arrangements made for the visit. He invited the Interior Secretary of Pakistan to visit India for the next Home/Interior Secretary level talks. The invitation was accepted.

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