India today refused to give a firm commitment on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan saying that the atmosphere has to be "ripe" and something "worthwhile" should come out from such a trip.
Making it clear that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "not shying away" from
visiting Pakistan, external affairs minister S M Krishna said that the he had never put conditions for his Pakistan visit.
"Prime Minister has never put conditions for his visit to Pakistan. I think, the visit will take place at an appropriate time when the atmosphere is ripe, when he feels that something worthwhile will come out of visit," Krishna said at a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.
"Prime Minister is not shying away from visiting Pakistan. In every conceivable opportunity which came in his way, he has been dealing with the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan... Manmohan Singh is the one who has been the mover of the relationship to next level," Krishna said.
He also said that he will provide his own assessment of the situation and depending upon that the Prime Minister will decide about Pakistan visit.
"We all feel that the Prime Minister of India, I think has to work out, depending upon his schedule his visit to Pakistan," Krishna said.India and Pakistan agree to build better ties
India and Pakistan agreed to adopt a forward-looking approach in normalising their ties, while recognising the need to "expeditiously" bring perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack to justice.
Both external affairs minister SM Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar emphasised the need for the two countries to set the sight on the future and not be held "hostage" by the past.
At a joint press conference with Khar, after the two countries signed a liberalised visa agreement, Krishna said both sides had agreed that terrorism posed a "continuing threat" to peace and reaffirmed their commitment to fight the menace effectively.
"The Pakistani side reiterated its commitment to bring to justice all perpetrators of Mumbai attack expeditiously, in accordance with due process of law," said Krishna.
Describing his talks with Khar as "cordial, frank and positive", Krishna said the foreign secretaries will hold talks on all eight segments of the resumed dialogue process before the two foreign ministers meet in New Delhi next year.
Khar, meanwhile, pushed India to shed the baggage of the past and build on the "convergences" as there was immense potential to normalise Indo-Pak relations.
"We will build on convergences and will not brood on divergences... We must not be held hostage by history... We must learn from missed opportunities and must commit to not lose further opportunities," she said.
External affairs minister SM Krishna and Pakistan foreign minister Heena Rabbani Khar shake hands during the Indo-Pak delegation-level talks in Islamabad. PTI Photo
Aspirations of Kashmiris must be accmmodated: Khar
Pakistani Foreign Minisiter Hina Rabbani Khar said on Saturday that the "aspirations of the Kashmiri people must be accommodated" and they must be a part of the dialogue process.
Khar in the joint press conference mentioned Kashmir and Siachin issues while stressing that both India and Pakistan should simultaneously progress on all tracks despite issues that have divided the two nations for several decades.
"The aspirations of the Kashmiri people must be accommodated and a quest for peaceful settlement requires that we be associated in one way or the other within the dialogue process," she said.
"So as we build the momentum... as we build the trust... as we build the confidence in each other's intentions and each other's commitments to a different view... to a different mindset to a different goal altogether to a different vision, I am quiet sure that we will be able to march ahead to resolve all the disputes."
Khar said it was important to do so "because we must be able to disarm the nay sayers".
"We must be able to disarm the people who will continue to want to divide us. So it is important that we are able to resolve these issues so that we can move forward and continue to consolidate on the success that we have been able to achieve so far and start viewing each other and looking at each other and co-existing as a part of the region," she said.
She said the two neighbours should look for ways and means for solutions to issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, "so that we continue to develop on our achievements through dialogue".
Khar said negative mindsets should be shunned and there is a need to move ahead with a new mindset.
"Pakistan sends a strong message" to move ahead in ties without being held hostage to past positions, Khar said.
India, Pak sign new liberalised visa agreement
India and Pakistan on Saturday signed the much-awaited liberalised visa agreement, introducing for the first time group tourist and pilgrim visas, separate visa for businessmen and visa on arrival for those over 65 years of age.
The new pact, signed between external affairs minister SM Krishna and Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik, replaces a 38-year-old restrictive visa agreement and will pave the way for time-bound visa approval and greater people to people contacts and boost trade.
While there was no time-frame for issuance of non-diplomatic visas, the new pact says that visa has to be issued with a period of not exceeding 45 days of application.
Under the new regime, one can visit five places instead of the three at present and those above 65 years of age and children below 12 years of age and "eminent" businessmen are exempted from police reporting.
Under the category of visitor visa, earlier only single entry visa for three months used to be issued for meeting relatives, friends, business or other legitimate purpose. Moreover, visa could be only issued for longer period not exceeding one year if owing to the nature of work or business.
Under the new pact, single entry visa is to be issued for six months but stay should not exceed three months at a time and for five places.
Under a new Category II, a visitor visa for a maximum five specified places may be issued for a longer period, up to two years with multiple entries to senior citizens (those above 65 years), spouses of a national of one country married to a person of another country and children below 12 years of age accompanying parents as given earlier.
The new group tourist visa will be issued for not less than 10 people and not more than 50 people. This visa will be valid for 30 days and will have to be applied through tour operators, registered by the two governments.
(with IANS and PTI inputs)
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