Krishna arrives with ‘goodwill message’ as archrivals agree to soften visa rules


Arch rivals Islamabad and New Delhi have decided to decrease widening gaps and bring closer the people from both countries by softening their visa policies for one another, as India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna arrived in Pakistan on a three-day visit on Friday.
Both countries reached a consensus on the visa issuance policy and a formal agreement is likely to be inked today (Saturday). Per the new regime, eight kinds of visas would be issued to facilitate people on both sides. A source privy to the developments said that during the foreign secretaries-level talks between Pakistan and India in Islamabad, it was mutually decided to issue visas under eight different categories, including diplomatic, non-diplomatic, 36-hour transit visit, tourist visas, civil society, media and business visas and the details and conditions for the issuance of these visas had been finalised and drafted.
A source close to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said that delegates from both sides reached a consensus making valid the tourist visa for six months, while the diplomatic visa category would offer visas to the consular, the consular mission and their family members. The business visas would be issued to people having an income of Rs 0.5 million annually or having business worth Rs 3 million under which their visas would be limited for five destinations. Once the agreement is signed, multiple entry visas for 10 destinations would be issued to those doing business worth Rs 5 million to Rs 30 million. Pilgrims from both countries would be able to get visas for 45 days.
Under the new policy draft that has been agreed by both countries, it was decided that elderly citizens from both countries would be able to seek visas for 45 days at the Wahga-Atari border. The foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries were led by Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Indian External Affairs Secretary Ranjan Mathai. Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal was also present. During the negotiations, both counterparts also discussed the issues of terrorism, Kashmir and water sharing, while the agenda of the meeting between the two foreign ministers today (Saturday) was also finalised.

After the conclusion of talks, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters that the negotiations were a positive move, expressing hopes to move ahead in resolving more important and serious issues in the future. Jilani said the water dispute between Pakistan and India was of vital importance and could not be ignored, adding that the issue of Kashmir also needed to be resolved.
The two foreign secretaries also agreed that the issue of terrorism was one that plagued both countries and must be solved collectively. Earlier in the day, the Indian delegation arrived in Pakistan under the leadership of Indian Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna. Krishna said India desired to see Pakistan a prosperous and a peaceful country and was committed to rebuilding its relations with Pakistan through dialogue. The Indian foreign minister said his country wanted to have cordial ties with Islamabad based upon peace and stability and free of terrorism and element of violence.
“I bring a message of goodwill from India to the people of Pakistan. I wish to reiterate the desire of India to see a stable and prosper Pakistan living in peace,” Krishna said. “We are committed to finding solutions to all issues that have beset our relationships through bilateral dialogue.” Krishna would hold a one-on-one sitting with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by the opening of foreign minister-level talks. During these talks, the foreign ministers from both countries would review the progress on the current dialogue process and also prepare the framework for next round of talks to be held between the two countries under the resumed dialogue process. The talks were earlier scheduled to be held in July; however, they were postponed because of the Indian presidential election.