M A I N   N E W S

Indo-Pak agreement on new visa regime
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to conclude three agreements on the liberalisation of visa regime and consular access and decided to convene an early meeting of defence secretaries on the Siachen issue.

Pakistan proposed some fresh ideas on confidence-building measures, including starting a helicopter service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Pakistan also agreed to resume Kargil-Skardu bus service for which modalities will be worked out by officials.

Foreign secretaries of the two sides, India’s Shiv Shankar and Pakistan’s Riaz Mohammad Khan, ended their first meeting of the fourth round and gave broad guidelines to eight groups of officials to finalise agreements on various issues during the round.

Both sides expressed satisfaction over the progress of peace process and improvement of bilateral relations.

A joint statement issued at the conclusion of the secretaries’ meeting said the two sides agreed to ensure operationalisation of the truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and operationalisation and rationalisation of five crossing points at the LoC.

It said for the promotion of people-to-people contacts, the two sides agreed to conclude during the fourth round bilateral Visa Agreement, the Agreement on Consular Access, and revise the Protocol on Visits to Religious Places. Both sides also discussed a more liberalised visa regime and better facilities for prisoners on either side of the border.

India has given the passport numbers of Pakistanis who died in the February 18 Samjhauta Express blasts but remained unidentified.

At least 19 of those killed in the blasts have remained unidentified and their DNA samples have been preserved.

The two countries also decided that their defence secretaries along with their director-generals of military operations would meet soon.

Pakistan has also suggested new measures such as sports events, a helicopter service and postal service in the Indian part of Kashmir.

The two countries’ defence secretaries would soon hold talks on ending a 20-year standoff on the Siachen glacier and border demarcation in Sir Creek, a marshy region between southern Pakistan and western India.

They would be assisted by respective directors-general (military operations).

The two sides agreed to expedite negotiations to conclude an Agreement on Prevention of Incidents at Sea. They also agreed to conclude and sign an Agreement on Modalities for the Conduct of Quarterly Flag meetings at the sectors to be agreed upon.

It was also agreed that the Committee on Prisoners, composed of four judges from each side, would ensure human treatment and expeditious release of prisoners on both sides.



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