The new liberalised visa regime for Pakistan will kick-in next week ahead of the cricket series during Pakistan’s Interior minister Rehman Malik visit, now slated for 14-16 December.
Islamabad suggested the new dates after Malik pointed to his itinerary; a visit to Turkey clashed with home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s invite to get Malik to spend his birthday on 12 December at the Taj Mahal.
New Delhi had proposed 11-13 December for the visit in light of Malik’s desire to travel to Taj Mahal and Ajmer.
It has been a visit that Malik has been keen to make for well over a year. But New Delhi hadn’t yielded, ostensibly to make a point that he hadn’t delivered on his assurance to bring perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to justice.
Shinde, however, figured that this wasn’t because Malik didn’t seem to be trying but despite his attempts. Besides, the home minister also felt it was still better to keep Malik engaged. The policy of not talking to Malik hadn’t helped either.
Government sources indicated New Delhi was playing along with Islamabad to formally operationalise the new regime that replaces a 38-year-old restrictive visa agreement to encourage greater people-to-people contact and trade.
“Visa agreements do not really need to be operationalised. You just have to issue some internal circulars and update the application forms,” a senior government official conceded.
Officials in New Delhi, however, welcomed the change in dates at Malik’s instance. The formal invitation for 11-13 December dispatched, there was some unease in the government at its timing. 13th December is also the anniversary of the terrorist attack on Parliament in 2001 that nearly pushed the two nuclear countries to war.
The government is already on a back-foot trying for sitting on the mercy petition of Afzal Guru , the only one sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in this attack. Rashtrapati Bhavan had recently sent Guru’s case back to the home ministry seeking its fresh views on his mercy petition.