Pakistan, India to operationalise visa regime soon

Pakistan and India will operationalise the landmark visa accord, signed in September, next week – a move that should help deliver tangible results of a nascent peace process between the arch rivals that had stalled following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
After receiving an invitation from the Indian government, officials in Islamabad were optimistic that the ‘liberalised’ visa agreement would be operationalised during Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s visit to New Delhi.
“Yes, Rehman Malik is all set to fly on his Indian counterpart’s invitation,” confirmed a senior official of the interior ministry, adding that Malik was unavailable to make an official announcement due to ill health.
On Tuesday (December 4), India invited the Pakistani interior minister to formally operationalise the new visa regime – an agreement to ease visa restrictions to facilitate tourists and the business community in the region.
Officials involved in preparations for Malik’s visit to India told The Express Tribune that several crucial issues will be taken up during his three-day stay in New Delhi.The new visa regime will be operationalised at an event being arranged by Malik’s Indian counterpart Sushil Kumar Shinde in New Delhi, officials added. Both ministers will also discuss security arrangements for the Pakistan cricket team’s tour to India in December and January.

The operationalisation will allow citizens of both countries to visit five cities, instead of the earlier limit of three. The business community will be able to receive visas without reporting to the police, while senior citizens (65 years of age and older) and children (below 12 years of age) will also be exempt from reporting to the police.
Malik and Shinde will also discuss threats from right-wing group Shiv Sena, which demanded the Indian government refrain from resuming cricket ties until Islamabad brings to justice the masterminds behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, said a senior official associated with Indian High Commission in Pakistan.
“Mr Shinde is likely to reiterate New Delhi’s demand to bring militants allegedly involved in the Mumbai attacks to justice in no time,” he said, adding that several key security issues will also be discussed during meetings. While mainstream media gathered steam behind Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s rescheduled trip to India set for later this month comfortably coinciding with his birthday, Malik sighed that the fantasies being played out in hastily put together graphic mash-ups on television screens, will never come to fruition.
Early on Thursday, Malik tweeted from his official twitter account that he will not be able to make the trip on the proposed dates since he has to attend a conference on the other end of the continent in Turkey.
“Pak High comissioner India was informed in the morning that I will not be able to visit 11th to 13th as I had to attend a meeting in Turkey.“ The trip is now being pushed forward by a couple of days, he tweeted.
“I will not be able to go to India and now new proposed dates are 14 to 16th Dec. An official hand out will be issued tomorrow in this respect.” The interior minister though did not forget the gracious offer made by his Indian counterpart and thanked him for the hospitality extended.
“Grateful to Mr Shinde for his kind gesture to invite me to celebrate my birth day in Agra. Unable to go on 12th, now I will go on 14th.“
Source: South Asia Media Net

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