Indian and Pakistani officials offered optimistic statements about relations between the countries, despite continued tensions.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and India signed a new visa agreement Saturday, easing restrictions for travelers in a move seen as a tentative step between the rival South Asian countries to normalize their troubled relations.
The agreement, which will make travel between the countries easier for businessmen, tourists and others, was signed by S.M. Krishna, the Indian minister for external affairs, and Rehman Malik, the Pakistani interior minister, in Islamabad.
Krishna, in Pakistan for a three-day tour, has held meetings with high-ranking government officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Indian and Pakistani officials offered optimistic statements about relations between the countries, despite continued tensions. “We must learn from the past,” Ashraf said Friday during his meeting with Krishna. “We cannot change our neighbors.”
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- You should probably replace some of your fabric face masks
- Honestie Hodges, whose mistreatment by police led to changes, dies of COVID. She was 14.
- Secret Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn draws thousands of guests, $15K fine
- Trump pardons Flynn despite guilty plea in Russia probe
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
And Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, speaking of the new visa agreement, said, “I am calling it the first step in normalization of relations with our neighbor.”
Krishna and Khar covered a broad range of issues in their talks, but it was not immediately clear if they made any headway in addressing mutual irritants.
Relations between the two neighbors plummeted in 2008 after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, for which India has blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba militants based in Pakistan.
India wants swift prosecution of suspects arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks. A trial is under way in Pakistan of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba suspects, but critics say its progress has been stalled by frequent adjournments.
Pakistan wants India to move quickly on disputed territories of Siachen and Sir Creek, apart from removing nontariff barriers as it increases trading ties with India.
“Each time we have met, the confidence to take the relations to the right trajectory has increased,” Khar said. “We will not be held hostage to history.”
She said Pakistan had sent a strong message to India by increasing trade ties. “We are willing to forge ahead,” she said.
In his remarks, the Indian foreign minister emphasized that terrorism was dangerous to both countries.
“We agreed that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security,” Krishna said. “The Pakistani side reiterated its commitment to bring all perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice expeditiously.”
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India would visit Pakistan when “he feels something worthwhile will come out of the visit.”