ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India vowed to improve their bilateral relations, as their foreign ministers agreed to move forward in normalising ties in a joint press conference held in Islamabad on Saturday.
The ministers spoke after both countries agreed to ease visa procedures, which introduce a number of measures “aimed at easing travel of business persons, tourists, pilgrims, elderly and children, thereby facilitating contacts between peoples of the two countries.”
The agreement was the culmination of a visit by Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna to Pakistan as part of a tentative peace process that froze after the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people.
India’s Minister for External Affairs S. M. Krishna spent two days in Islamabad, holding talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
“A step-by-step approach is what will take the relationship forward,” said FM Krishna.
The joint statement also referred to a “commitment” given by Pakistan last May to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice “expeditiously”.
“The Pakistani side reiterated its commitment to bring to justice all perpetrators of Mumbai attack expeditiously, in accordance with due process of law,” said Kishna.
Pakistan charged the seven men over the 2008 Mumbai attacks in 2009, but insists it needs to gather more evidence in India before proceeding further.
New Delhi has branded Pakistan’s attempts at prosecuting the alleged conspirators a “facade” and insists it has already handed over enough evidence to convict the accused.
Both ministers “reaffirmed the strong commitment of the two countries to fight terrorism in an effective and comprehensive manner so as to eliminate the scourge in all its forms and manifestations,” the joint statement said.
“We will move forward... We will not be held hostage to history,” Khar told a joint news conference with Krishna.
“We must learn from the past and not miss any more opportunities. Pakistan is committed not to lose any opportunities. Pakistan is committed to creating new opportunities,” she said.
Khar cited Pakistan’s move to normalise trade ties with India as a strong message of its intentions to forge ahead towards an improved relationship.
“We are looking at India with a completely different mindset. When Pakistan decides to change a position it has held to for 40 years and liberalise trade ties with India, Pakistan is sending a very very strong message of being willing to forge ahead without being hostage to the past,” Khar said while addressing reporters.
Krishna, meanwhile, insisted that both countries must set their sights on the future, saying, “let us walk the talk together.”
“Let us not look back as you have rightly said, let us not be held hostage to whatever has happened earlier. I think we will have to keep our sight to the future,” he said.