Ind asks Pak to defer Interior Minister Rehman Malik's visit

 
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India asks Pak to defer Malik's visit
New Delhi, Nov 19: Operationalisation of the landmark Indo-Pak visa agreement will be delayed as India has asked Pakistan to postpone Interior Minister Rehman Malik's proposed visit here on Nov 22-23.

"The dates proposed by the Pakistani side are not suitable to us, so the visit of Rehman Malik stands postponed. Fresh set of dates will be discussed later," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters here.

During Malik's proposed visit, the two sides had planned to operationalise the new liberalised Indo-Pak visa pact replacing a 38-year-old restrictive visa agreement and paving the way for time-bound visa approval and greater people-to-people contact and trade.

Though New Delhi has cited the coming Winter session of Parliament as the reason for its inability to host Malik this week as Shinde would be busy being the Leader of Lok Sabha, Islamabad's failure to punish those involved in 26/11 appears to be the key reason.

Sources said since the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack falls three days after the proposed visit of the Pakistani leader, Home Ministry officials seem to have advised against hosting Malik.

Malik has been accused of failing to keep his promises on acting against perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack which claimed 166 lives.

Trial against LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other accused of 26/11 case at a Rawalpindi court has been very slow and New Delhi's request for voice samples of handlers of the terrorists is yet to be acceded by Islamabad and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed continues to roam freely in Pakistan, they said.

"Under such a situation, it is not prudent to host the Pakistani Interior Minister on the eve of the fourth anniversary of 26/11 attack," the sources said.

The message was conveyed to Pakistan through diplomatic channels. India has not yet suggested new dates for Rehman's visit.

Malik had conveyed his willingness to visit New Delhi when he met Shinde on the sidelines of an Interpol meeting in Rome last fortnight for formal operationalisation of the pact for a new visa regime.

The visa agreement, signed by the then External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Malik in Islamabad on Sept 8, eases curbs on issuing visas to traders, elderly people, tourists, pilgrims, members of civil society and children.

Both sides are looking at operationalising the new visa regime before the upcoming Indo-Pak limited-over cricket series beginning Dec 25.

While there was no time-frame for issuance of non-diplomatic visas, the new pact says visa has to be issued with a period of not exceeding 45 days of application.

Under the new regime, one can visit five places, instead of three at present, and those above 65 years of age, children below 12 years of age and "eminent" businessmen are exempted from reporting to the police.

PTI

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