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India, Pak agree on forward-looking approach to normalise ties

Islamabad(PTI): India and Pakistan today 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 S M 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.

The visa agreement has five new categories, including multiple city one-year visas for businessmen, visa-on-arrival for people aged 65 years and group tourist visas for groups of 10 to 50 people coming through registered tour operaters.

The cultural bodies of the two countries — Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and its Pakistani counterpart body (PNCS) — also inked an agreement to augment cultural exchanges between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced the immediate release of all Indian fishermen, including those who have not completed their prison terms, describing it as a “goodwill gesture” to mark Krishna’s visit.

Krishna and Khar reviewed the last round of talks on all bilateral issues, including, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and Siachen and chalked out the roadmap for future round of discussions. The two ministers also chaired the Joint Commission Meeting.

After the talks, Krishna drove to Interior Ministry to ink the new visa pact with Rehman Malik, who termed the signing of the pact as “positive development” and “gesture of friendship” from Pakistan.

At the joint press interaction, Khar, who spoke first, made no reference to terrorism in her over 15-minute opening statement but Krishna said both sides agreed that terror continues to pose a threat to peace and security.

In this regard, he said, Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to bring 26/11 perpetrators to justice expeditiously as per the Pakistani law.

Responding to a repeated question on the timing of keenly-awaited visit of Singh, Krishna said, “I am hopeful that the visit will take place” but when it will happen he cannot commit.

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