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Pranab Mukherjee visits Pakistan for first time

By Staff
Google Oneindia News

Islamabad, Jan 13: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjeearrived here this afternoon on a two-day visit, his first to Pakistan,and hoped that the peace process between the two countries will moveforward.

Immediately after arriving at the Chaklala Airport near here, hesaid the peace process between the two countries should go ahead.

He was received at the airport by Pakistan Foreign Secretary RiazMohammad Khan, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Satyabrata Paul andother senior officials of both governments.

Mr Mukherjee, who is on his first ever visit to Pakistan,primarily to extend an invitation to President Pervez Musharraf toattend the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi in April, will call on PrimeMinister Shoukat Aziz besides the President.

He will later have talks with his counterpart Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri.

Mr Mukherjee will hold talks on several issues including Kashmir andcross-border terrorism with Islamabad stressing on PresidentMusharraf's four-point formula and New Delhi demanding reining in ofterrorists. The two sides will also discuss Siachen and Sir Creek,opening of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai, implementation of theSouth Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the Iran-Pakistan-India(IPI) gas pipeline.

The talks are being held in the backdrop of warmth in bilateralrelations that have made resolution of disputes between the twocountries a reality.

Although not much is expected from today's meetings, but officialshere said it would give a definite forward push to improvement inrelations.

Tomorrow, Mr Mukherjee is scheduled to meet some political leadersand later visit the ancient historical site of Taxila, on the outskirtsof Islamabad, which was the seat of Mauryan empire.

Pakistan has indicated that it would relax visa restrictions for Indiantourists and raise the limit from five to 15 days. The two countriesare also likely to sign four agreements including on liberalisation ofvisa restrictions and reduction of nuclear risks. Federal Minister forTourism, Niloufer Bakhtiar, said the government was consideringincreasing the duration of stay of Indian tourists from five to 15 daysand introducing a tourist section in the passports for the purpose.

The two sides will also set the agenda for the fourth round of theComposite Dialogue Process besides reviewing the third round of theCDP.

India has already indicated its disinterest in PresidentMusharraf's proposal of joint management and said the joint managementcould be possible in matter like tourism, environment etc.

Expectations are high in Pakistan that both countries are now ready to forget past and have a new beginning.


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