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India, Pakistan revive joint commission

October 04, 2005 23:15 IST

India and Pakistan on Tuesday revived the Joint Commission headed by their foreign ministers after 16 years.

New Delhi urged Islamabad to sign the Extradition Treaty and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The commission also presented a slew of proposals in the fields of visa, consular access, pilgrimages, defence and tourism.

The commission, co-chaired by External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, decided to set up a high-level working group in various areas like agriculture, health, science and technology, IT, information, education, telecom and tourism.

The Extradition Treaty and the MLAT are significant since India has already sought handing over of 20 terrorists and criminals, including alleged Mumbai blasts mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, taking shelter in Pakistan.

With an aim to enhance people-to-people contacts and address the problem relating to detained people, India presented three proposals, including liberalisation of visa regime and improvement of consular access system.

The Indian side also proposed increase of nationals visiting the other country for pilgrimage and raising the number of shrines to be visited.

The proposals were forwarded in the form of amendments to update the 1974 Visa agreement, 1982 Protocol on Consular Access and 1974 Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, the sources said.

With regard to the visa issue, the Indian proposal involves an agreement to grant visa for six months instead of the present 90-day cap, with maximum three entries, they said.

It also proposes inclusion of new category of visas-- pilgrims, business community and students.

For pilgrim visas, the proposal talks about non-extendable one-month visa to be granted to groups.

In business visa category, the proposal talks about issuing permit for six months with multiple entries for one year, the sources said.

India also proposed that student visas be issued for duration of a course.

The second proposal deals with the issue of consular access under which New Delhi will recommend that both sides exchange lists of nationals under its arrest on January 1  and July 1 every year.

It also involves updating of the Protocol by inclusion of practices already agreed upon such as notification of any arrest to the respective High Commission and providing consular access to all prisoners within three months of date of arrest and repatriation within one month of confirmation of nationality status.

The amendment to Protocol on visit to religious shrines includes increasing of the number of pilgrims and shrines on both sides that can be visited and issuance of group visas.

With an aim of encouraging cross-border tourism, New Delhi proposed tour packages for Pakistanis and enlist the tour operators from this side who could be entrusted the responsibility to promote exchanges in this area.

More reports from Pakistan

Ajay Kaul in Islamabad
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