Beijing: Pakistan Wednesday affirmed that the liberalized visa treaty with India will be signed soon as the foreign secretaries of the two countries prepare to meet in New Delhi June 29, setting the stage for the visit of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad mid-July. “I will be coming to New Delhi for the foreign secretary-level talks June 29,” Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said.
Ahead of the foreign secretary-level talks, India and Pakistan will hold talks on the disputed Siachen glacier June 11-12 and the Sir Creek waterbody in the Rann of Kutch marshlands June 17-18, which will complete the revived dialogue process that started last year.
Jilani, however, treaded cautiously when asked about speculation about an imminent accord to resolve the Siachen dispute. “The Siachen issue should be discussed. Resolving it is in the best interests of the two countries,” he said.
Jilani will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai in New Delhi on a wide range of issues, including terrorism, the 26/11 Mumbai attack and Kashmir.
Krishna is expected to go to Islamabad mid-July and hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar to review the dialogue process and map out the trajectory of the bilateral relationship which is prone to prickly posturing.
Striking an upbeat note on the future of the revived dialogue process, Jilani downplayed the failure in signing the liberalized visa agreement last month, saying that the text has been initialled and is only waiting for signatures at the political level. “There are no issues with the visa agreement. It’s just that we thought it should be signed at the political level,” Jilani replied when asked whether there were any issues holding up the much-awaited visa accord that is expected to be a major step in boosting travel and people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan.
The signing of the agreement, according to informed sources, now can happen during External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad in July. It can happen earlier also if Home Minister P. Chidambaram decides to visit Islamabad.
The visa accord was widely expected to be signed during the talks between home secretaries in Islamabad last month, but then it was pushed to a side. Islamabad decided that it should be signed at the political level. India has aired its disappointment over the postponement in signing the visa agreement.
The proposed visa regime is likely to include, among other things, tourist visas to each other’s citizens and the issue of visa on arrival at the Wagah-Attari border for senior citizens and young children. Jilani is here as part of the Pakistani delegation which is accompanying President Asif Ali Zardari to Beijing for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.