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Rehman Malik brings India message of 'peace and love'

December 14, 2012

Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik (R) speaks with Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde during the launch of new visa agreement in New Delhi on December 14, 2012. – Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's interior minister arrived in India on Friday with a message of “peace and love” that he said would help the nuclear-armed rivals give a fresh impetus to their fragile ties.

Rehman Malik flew into New Delhi for a three-day visit that will see him formalise a new visa accord and hold security talks with his Indian counterpart Sushilkumar Shinde.

“I have brought the message of peace and love from the children, women and men, old and young of Pakistan... I am here to take the peace process forward,” Malik told reporters at the airport.

India suspended peace talks with Islamabad after the attacks on its financial capital Mumbai four years ago.

Since then, both countries have taken tentative steps to get the process back on track, focusing on basic confidence-building measures and leaving aside core territorial disputes.

Malik's visit comes less than a month after India executed Pakistani-born Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the 25-year-old sole surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks.

Malik stressed the need to forget the “dark days” and expressed hope the visa accord, signed in September, would lead to more interaction between the people of both nations.

“The journey towards peace is progressing very well, especially with the new visa regime, it will also bring a lot of good for us... Let us not create any negativity.” The visa agreement will replace a 38-year-old restrictive travel pact between the two countries.

The new rules will ease restrictions on business travel, offer visas on arrival in both countries to people over 65 years of age, guarantee “time-bound” issues of visa and other benefits, according to media reports.

“When Indians enter Pakistan and Pakistanis enter India, they should feel like they are coming home,” he said.

Malik also said Pakistan would arrest Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Islamist terror group blamed for the Mumbai attacks who lives openly in Pakistan, if authorities got proof of his guilt that would stand up in court.

In April, the United States offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to Saeed's arrest and conviction.

“We have arrested Saeed three times,” Malik said, but added “court documents declared him innocent”.

“If there is evidence that can stand the test of courts, I am sure we have no love lost for Saeed,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid warned against too high expectations from Malik's visit, the first by a top official from Islamabad since July when Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar travelled to India.

“We should not really have very, very great expectations because there are constraints and limitations,” Khurshid told the Press Trust of India.

“But nevertheless we will push (to improve relations),” he said.