Zardari trip may give push to new visa regime

President Asif Zardari

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are trying to take advantage of a visit by Pakistani President Asif Zardari to India on Sunday to liberalize a bilateral visa regime.

The two countries have already agreed in principle to liberalize business visas, a decision taken after the commerce secretaries’ meeting last year. That agreement may be given concrete shape, though, officials said that given the short time, it was not clear whether the pact would be signed during Zardari’s visit or soon after. Pakistani president’s visit might even give a fillip to an overdue meeting between home secretaries, since talks have been postponed a couple of times.

Zardari’s visit will not only give a higher profile to the interaction, which have been steadily on the increase, but New Delhi will also lay out the red carpet for the Pakistani president. Even though its not strictly an official or state visit, Zardari will be accorded all the trappings of a state visit. He will be received by a minister in Delhi, and will have a minister accompanying him during his trip to Ajmer.

The government received a formal request by the Pakistan government on March 28 for a visit by Zardari to Ajmer, though informal feelers had been sent a week before. It was instantly agreed to by the Manmohan Singh government that has pushed for better ties with Pakistan. The visit will also give the government an opportunity to show its support for the Pakistan’s civilian dispensation that has hit stormy weather recently, thanks to recurrent battles with the country’s powerful army and the newly-empowered judiciary. – TOI