ISLAMABAD - Talks between the interior secretaries of Pakistan and India ended on Friday without the much-awaited liberalised visa agreement being signed, as Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Pakistan had decided “in principle” to liberalise the visa regime with India but the agreement should be finalised at the political level.
Malik met the Indian delegation led by Home Secretary RK Singh, who held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khwaja Siddique Akbar. The minister said the two sides had exchanged dossiers on terrorism-related issues, and Pakistan had received additional evidence from India against Hafiz Saeed. But Pakistan could not act on “hearsay”, and would examine the evidence, he said. Malik said the issue of India’s alleged interference in Balochistan too had been discussed, and Interior Secretary Akbar had been directed to provide “evidence” of it to his Indian counterpart. He said the two countries should give up the “blame game” and work together to tackle terrorism.
He said the people accused of conducting Mumbai attacks were undergoing trial and the decision of the court was yet to come, adding that nobody could be termed guilty before the investigations concluded. To a question regarding the Mumbai attacks, Malik said evidence from the Indian side was yet to be analysed and their authenticity to be checked, such that Pakistan had also to rely on its own investigations. The interior minister confirmed that Indian intelligence agency, RAW, was involved in the Samjhota Express incident and blaming Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was totally wrong. Meanwhile in Delhi, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai claimed that India had gone to Islamabad “fully prepared” but the agreement could not be signed due to “some delay in the procedure”.
According to Indian Express sources, Islamabad had wanted the visa agreement to be signed by Interior Minister Malik and his Indian counterpart P Chidambaram but India declined the request because its home minister was not supposed to go on this visit. The report said that Pakistan later requested Chidambaram’s presence for few hours to sign the agreement but the Indian home minister declined to be part of the delegation.
Mathai told reporters in Delhi that as per the decision taken during discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari in April, the visa agreement was to be signed during the home secretary talks.
But, he said, “We also have reports that the Pakistani side referred to some delay in its procedure and Interior Minister’s (Rehman Malik) desire for political participation in signing of the visa pact.” “Both sides had attached a lot of importance on signing the visa agreement”, Mathai added.