Islamabad: India and Pakistan will on Saturday sign a liberalized visa agreement aimed at boosting people-to-people cooperation and improving the atmospherics between the two South Asian countries, whose ties have been riddled by mistrust for the better part of the past six decades.

The new agreement will replace a 1974 pact and will be signed by Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad. Krishna is in Pakistan for talks with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar to take stock of the past round of official-level talks—that discuss various disputes between the two countries—and to set the course for the third round.

photoThe pact has been ready for signature for many months, but had been held up due to protocol issues. It will benefit people of both the countries as it will facilitate multiple-entry visas for businessmen, allowing them to visit five cities instead of three as at present. It will also exempt them from reporting at police stations in the cities that they visit—a mandatory requirement under the current regime.

An agreement to sign the pact during Krishna’s visit came during the meeting held on Friday between Indian foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani.

The new pact will also exempt elderly people from police reporting and allow common people from either country to visit three earmarked cities instead of one. It also has provisions for giving visas on arrival at Wagah for senior citizens and children from the other country.

Pakistan media reports said foreign office sources said a consensus had been made over the Pakistan-India visa issuance policy, and it has been decided that eight categories of visas will be issued, including diplomatic, non-diplomatic, 36-hour transit visit, tourist, civil society, media and business visas.

Besides the visa agreement, another pact expected to be signed on Saturday is a cultural agreement between the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and its Pakistani counterpart PNCS.

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