The much expected visa liberalisation accord between Pakistan and India could not be signed at the second round of Interior/Home Secretaries meetings held under the resumed bilateral talks at Islamabad on May 24-25. Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik attributed the failure to ink the agreement to the need to sort out certain important points at the political level and issued a call for his Indian counterpart P. Chidambaram to pay a visit to Pakistan to finalise the visa liberalisation arrangement. The Indian side, however, claiming that it had come to Islamabad “fully prepared”, blamed procedural issues and Mr Malik’s desire to sign it at the political level, between him and Mr Chidambaram. New Delhi is, apparently, reluctant to send Mr Chidambaram to Pakistan to, as India’s Home Ministry is supposed to have told the media, bring home the point that it wanted Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack before the Minister could plan a visit to Pakistan.

The Indian attitude, thus, makes it obvious that without resolution of contentious issues, a genuine movement towards the normalisation of relations is hardly likely. After all, the idea behind relaxing restrictions on the issue of visas is to provide an opportunity for increased people-to-people contacts to pave the way for a normalisation of relations. But, it is difficult to conceive of a real equation that ensures harmonious neighbourly relations in the presence of serious allegations against each other. On the one side are Mumbai incident and charges against Hafiz Saeed; on the other, the destabilisation of Balochistan and the Samjhota Express. Then, there are unsettled disputes haunting the bilateral ties and to cap them all is the core issue of Kashmir, a case of India’s betrayal of trust by reneging on solemn commitments. The dispute also carries grave emotional and humanitarian overtones for the people of Pakistan. A recent report on human rights issued by the US State Department sharply criticises India for massive human rights violations in the Valley, pointing a finger at the Indian army for involvement in extra-judicial killings. New Delhi’s ridiculous offer of $10 million in exchange for the custody of Hafiz Saeed raises the question whether it would respond positively to Islamabad’s demand for the custody of Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit, the main accused in the Samjhota Express, for a similar amount.

Some other reports in the media also reflect the sharp differences and tension that continue to bedevil Pakistan-India ties. For instance, there is the Indian Army Chief’s statement that it would not hand over Siachen to Pakistan and that a terrorist network exists across the border in Pakistan. Strangely, against the backdrop of such an Indian attitude, Ambassador Sherry Rehman, while talking to Indian media, reveals that Sarabjit Singh, the Indian spy held in Pakistan, would be sent back to his country within a week. Whatever the pressure, our national interests demand that we must not let off a spy who was out to harm us.