Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna, left, shakes hand with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.—AP Photo
Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna, left, shakes hand with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.—AP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are likely to sign the long-awaited new visa regime during a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad next week.

Mr Krishna will attend a review meeting of the peace dialogue and co-chair the plenary session of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission.

“The Minister for External Affairs of India will be visiting Pakistan on 7-9 Sept for holding review meeting with the foreign minister at her invitation,” the Foreign Office announced on Friday.

The meeting of foreign ministers will be preceded by talks at the foreign secretaries’ level. Officials of foreign ministries of the two countries will lay the ground work for the ministers.

Diplomatic sources said the Pakistani side was eagerly looking forward to signing the new visa agreement during Mr Krishna’s visit.

The agreement was finalised at a meeting of interior secretaries in May, but its signing was held up at the last minute because of opposition by Interior Minister Rehman Malik who insisted that it should be initialled at the political level.

Postponement of the signing during Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh’s visit left Indian officials baffled. A joint statement issued after the talks between the interior secretaries welcomed the finalisation of the agreement and noted that it would be signed “at an early date”.

The excuse from the Pakistani side for delaying the signing was that “some internal approvals are under process and the agreement will be signed once they are in place”.

The new visa regime will, for the first time, include group tourist visa, visa on arrival for senior citizens and children and year-long multiple entry visa for businessmen.

“The two ministers will also co-chair the plenary of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission to be held in Islamabad on Sept 8,” the FO statement said.

The commission is meeting after five years. It was revived in 2005 after a decade and a half and was again suspended in 2008 because of the Mumbai attacks.

The foreign ministers’ meeting follows a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday in Tehran on the sidelines of NAM summit.

The Tehran meeting was the second between the two leaders this year.

During the meeting, Mr Zardari noted that both the countries had made lot of progress towards normalising their ties.