After dilly-dallying for months, Pakistan on Tuesday agreed to allow an Indian probe team to visit the country in connection with 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case, setting a positive backdrop for the prime ministerial meeting in Mohali on Wednesday.
Pakistan, which had been dragging its feet on allowing Indian investigators on its soil in relation to probing the source of the Mumbai attack, expressed its readiness during a meeting between home secretaries of the two countries which ended on Tuesday. A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting reiterated the commitment of the two sides to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.
"The meeting was extremely positive. It had moved forward in reducing trust deficit (between the two countries) significantly," India's Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai said after the meeting. The joint-statement listed various areas of cooperation including countering drug and human trafficking, streamlining visa procedure, fake currency, cyber crimes and maritime cooperation.
"The Pakistani side provided updates on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks. Pakistan conveyed its readiness, in-principle, based upon the principle of comity and reciprocity, to entertain a commission from India with respect to Mumbai terror attack investigations," the statement said.
Modalities and composition in this connection will be worked out through diplomatic channels, it said. The dates for the visit of the judicial commission from Pakistan in connection with Mumbai terror attack trial will be conveyed by India within four to six weeks.
The National Investigation Agency in India and Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency will continue to cooperate in the Mumbai terror attack investigations, it said. On the issue of providing to India the voice samples of alleged masterminds of the attack, sources said Pakistan officials have said that a lower court had rejected their case in this regard.
An appeal has been filed with the high court and a positive outcome is expected, New Delhi has been told. The joint statement said both the sides agreed to set-up a joint working group to examine the modalities for streamlining the visa procedure/modalities and for giving a final shape to revision of the bilateral visa agreement.
Official sources said a proposal has been put forth to relax norms for issuance of visa to journalists, businessmen, senior citizens and patients coming for medical treatment. Under the proposal, the visa issued for journalists, businessmen, senior citizens or patients travelling for treatment will not be city specific and visa holders would be allowed to travel across the country, official sources said.
The Indian side also proposed to relax norms for people who have a valid visa and want to travel again within the span of two years by removing the time-consuming security background check process. The Indian high commission in Pakistan will be empowered to issue necessary permissions to such travellers, they said.
The talks which were led by Pillai from Indian side and Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, interior secretary of Pakistan, also decided to set-up a hotline between the two home secretaries to facilitate real time information sharing with respect to terrorist threats. Pakistan also invited the Indian home secretary for the next round of talks which has been accepted.
The delegations also exchanged views on the decisions taken in the last round of talks held in Islamabad in 2008. "It was agreed that it was important for both sides to remain engaged on outstanding issues and henceforth the home/interior secretary level talks would be held bi-annually," the statement said.
During the talks, India updated Pakistan with information on the on-going Samjhautha Express blast case investigation. "It was also agreed that after filing of report in the court, updated information will be shared with the concerned Pakistan authorities," the statement said.
Both sides shared concerns on the illicit drug trafficking and agreed to hold talks between director general, Narcotics Control Bureau and DG, Anti Narcotics Force of Pakistan annually to control the menace, it said. India accepted the invitation for DG NCB to visit Pakistan in May 2011 for talks with DG, ANF.
"The Memorandum of Understanding on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs/Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals and related matters as finalised will be formally signed at the next DG level meeting of NCB-ANF in May 2011," the statement said.
It was agreed all the prisoners and fishermen who have completed their sentences in respective countries will be released on April 15 this year. A complete list of all the prisoners serving in each others' custody will be exchanged by both sides on July 1, 2011.
"Both sides commended the work done by the judicial committee on prisoners for the release, repatriation and humane treatment of prisoners and agreed on the need for its continuation. The next meeting of the judicial committee would be held from April 19-23, 2011 in Pakistan," it said.