NEW DELHI  - In a confidence-building exercise, the parliamentarians of Pakistan and India Thursday held a wide-ranging dialogue that focused on easing the visa regime and the role of media in promoting peace between the two sub-continental neighbours.

The Pakistani parliamentary delegation, led by Senator Sabir Ali Baloch, deputy chairperson of the Pakistan Senate, engaged in intense discussions with Indian lawmakers led by Yashwant Sinha, a senior BJP leader and a former foreign minister, and Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Besides Sinha and Aiyar, other Indian MPs who joined the dialogue included Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Naresh Gujral, Kanimozhi, Kirti Azad, Supriya Sule and BJ Panda.

The parliamentarians from both sides discussed the opportunities of deepening ties between the two countries and focused the easing of the visa regime, the role of media, education and local government in promoting stronger relations between the two countries. They also reviewed and analysed the progress in the official dialogue between the two countries.

Pakistan and India have finalised an agreement for liberalising the visa regime, but the signing of this accord has been deferred as Islamabad is keen that such an important agreement should be signed at the political level between home ministers of the two countries.

“The Pakistani side informed that some internal approvals were under process and the agreement will be signed once they are in place,” Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed told the Rajya Sabha Thursday.

The two-day India-Pakistan parliamentarians’ dialogue seeks to discuss all issues that affect bilateral relations and will focus on exploring ways to promote trade and boost people-to-people contacts with a view to bridging trust deficit between the two countries.

On Friday, the MPs are expected to discuss opportunities of collaboration in the area of health while also developing recommendations to enhance the scope of the MPs’ Dialogue. The parliamentarians are expected to press for a resolution of humanitarian issues, like the release of prisoners in each other’s territory that has the potential to create a lot of goodwill between the two countries.

On Saturday, the Pakistani parliamentarians will leave for Patna where they will meet Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The dialogue is being facilitated by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a think-tank that works for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan.

The dialogue takes place weeks before Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna comes to Islamabad for talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to review the second round of dialogue after the two sides revived their ties following a long hiatus after the 26/11 terror attacks. While Krishna and Khar will discuss contentious issues like terror and Kashmir, the two ministers are also expected to discuss strengthening of cross-border trade and travel linkages.

Talking to the media before leaving for India On Wednesday, Sabir Baloch said such visits would go a long way to ease tensions between the two countries.

Badr said this was the fourth parliamentary delegation visiting India and expressed the hope the visit would help pave the way for cooperation and trade between the two countries. Haji Adeel would be representing KP while Khurram Dastagir will invite the chief minister of Bihar to visit Punjab on behalf of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.