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India to present proposals on visas, detainees, consular access

By Ajay Kaul
October 03, 2005 17:35 IST
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India will present to Pakistan three proposals, including liberalisation of visa regime and improvement of consular access system, when the two countries revive the Joint Commission in Islamabad on Tuesday after a gap of 16 years.

The Commission meeting, to be co-chaired by External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, will also see India proposing increase of nationals visiting the other country for pilgrimage and raising the number of shrines to be visited.

The proposals will be 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, officials said in Islamabad on Monday.

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

It will also propose inclusion of new category of visas - pilgrims, business community and students. For pilgrim visa, the proposal talks about non-extendable one-month visa to be granted to groups. In business visa category, the proposal will talk about issuing permit for six months with multiple entry for one year, the officials said.

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On student visa, India proposes that visa 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 one and July one every year.

It also involves updating the protocol by inclusion of already agreed upon practices 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.

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

India is expected to press for exploitation of trade potential and take up the issue of transit facility for goods through Pakistan which Islamabad has so far been denying. Noting that tariffs were standing in the way of promoting trade between the two, the sources said Pakistan will be offered liberalisation of 116 tariff lines.

Opening of branches of banks in each other's country is also proposed. State Bank of India has already applied to open a branch in Pakistan and New Delhi has received an application from Habib Bank in this regard.

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Ajay Kaul
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