OUR STAFF REPORTER/AGENCIES
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India are likely to sign visa agreement to promote people-to-people contact during three-day official visit of Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna arriving today (Friday).On the other hand, Krishna has said ahead of his visit that Pakistan should address India’s concerns on terror. “A visa agreement to promote people-to-people contact and business links between the two countries has been finalised and only needs to be signed,” diplomatic sources said on Thursday.Krishna will meet his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, president and the prime minister during his three-day visit to review progress in the dialogue and to normalise bilateral ties between the two nuclear neighbours.On September, Indian minister will travel to Lahore, where he is expected to visit the mausoleum of the poet Allama Muhammed Iqbal, besides Data Darbar, considered to be one of the oldest Muslim shrines in the sub-continent. The Indian minster is expected to meet Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry Shujaat and other political figures in Lahore.During his stay in the federal capital, the Indian minister will co-chair with his Pakistani counterpart the joint ministerial commission meeting on September 8, besides their one-on-one meeting. The aim of the joint commission is to improve the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the relationship while keeping deliberations going on to discuss contentious issues like Kashmir which sparked three of the four wars between the two neighbours. Before their meeting, foreign secretaries of the two countries would hold meeting to review the progress of the technical committees to discuss the individual subjects.Pakistan has said it will grant India most-favoured nation status by December this year. It has already moved from a positive list based trading system to a negative list. Since the resumption of the dialogue, India has relaxed rules to allow Pakistani investment into India and both sides are working on ways to allow their banks to operate in the other country. Agencies add: Krishna in an interview with an Indian news agency said, “We will persevere,” outlining New Delhi’s approach to Pak-India dialogue while insisting that Pakistan must address ‘terrorism-related concerns’.He said, “It would be unrealistic to expect a barbaric terror attack such as Mumbai not to cause a major setback to our efforts to build peace and co-operation.”He also asserted that India had given more than adequate evidence to Pakistan to enable them to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice.”“In diplomacy, patience is of paramount importance. We will persevere. There has been progress in areas of economic and commercial cooperation......I hope to give a further boost to people-to-people contacts as people are at the heart of relations between any two countries,” Krishna said.Though he noted the progress made in the area of economic and trade cooperation, the minister was quick to add that “terrorism continues to be the most important threat to peace and security in our region.”This is Krishna’s second visit to Pakistan in over two years. He had last visited Pakistan in 2010 when he held talks with then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.On his expectations from his visit, Krishna said he, along with Khar, would review the progress of the second round of the resumed dialogue, which has been successfully concluded, and chart the course for future engagement.“I look forward to my discussions with her, which I believe will serve to promote mutual understanding and trust between our two countries. India is of the view that normalization of relations between India and Pakistan should be a step-by-step process. My visit to Pakistan is one more step in that approach,” he said.The minister also said he intends “to discuss with Khar the possibilities that can be pursued to facilitate a purposeful visit of the Prime Minister.”“It is also clear that the right atmosphere needs to be created for the visit. Such a visit would need to be prepared well to have a substantive outcome,” he said, adding India has repeatedly stressed, including at the highest level, the need for an expeditious and successful conclusion of the trial in Pakistan relating to those involved with the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November, 2008.Asked about the view that Indo-Pak dialogue was not going anywhere and that the two countries were talking for the sake of it, Krishna said “I acknowledge there are issues between our two countries. However, our people should not be denied the benefits of a productive and co-operative relationship because of the existence of such issues.He also said he was encouraged by statements by the leadership of Pakistan, including his counterpart, reaffirming the desire to resolve all issues on the negotiating table.