NEW DELHI - In an important confidence-building step, India and Pakistan on Friday firmed up a draft of their bilateral visa agreement that will ease travel between the two countries, reports Indian media.
Senior officials of India and Pakistan held the second meeting of the Joint Working Group that looked at the streamlining the visa procedures to spur greater business and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
The Pakistani delegation was led by Nasar Hayat, Additional Secretary, Ministry Of Interior while the Indian delegation was led by Anil Goswami, Additional Secretary (Foreigners) in the home affairs ministry.
The discussions were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, the Indian external affairs ministry said in a statement here.
The two sides finalised the draft text of the agreement, which will be submitted to the respective governments for obtaining necessary approvals in order to sign the agreement at an early date, said the ministry.
The draft agreement envisages, among other things, multiple-entry visas for traders and businessmen of the two countries.
During the talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries in June, the two sides had prioritised building strong people-to-people contacts as a key part of their relationship and decided to accelerate their negotiations for concluding a visa agreement.
The finalisation of the visa agreement signals an easing of relations between the two neighbours whose ties had plummeted to a new low following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
They decided to resume their peace process early this year.
Online adds: Pakistan has formally decided to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday.
While talking to host of journalists outside Parliament House in Islamabad, Hina said Pakistan has decided in principal to grant India MFN status so that trade impediments between the two countries could be removed.
She said that by granting India MFN status trade activities between both the countries would flourish.
She further said that dialogue process with India has been initiated after a gap of two years.
'The top-most priority of the country is to ensure uninterrupted dialogue with India so that the resolution of core Kashmir issue could be ensured, she added.
'There are a number of achievements regarding relations with India.
We have achieved ground on trade with India.
First time in history, she said.
She further said that Pakistan wants strong and stable Afghanistan.
With respect to conference in Istanbul, she said that Pakistan has always been of the stance of maintaining cordial ties with Turkey and through this conference the regional situation would improve.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 15-Oct-2011 here.