Pakistan and India Saturday signed an agreement to relax their strict visa polices, in a sign of improving relations between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals, dpa reported.
The agreement came as the foreign ministers of the neighbouring countries began talks in Islamabad to build on thawing relations. Under the agreement, businessmen will get one-year visas for five cities, and citizens over the age of 65 will be given 45-day visas upon arrival and will be exempted from reporting to police. The visa application process would no longer take months.
Concessions were also made for artists, children, pilgrims and group tourism in the deal signed by Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna and Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
"This is the first step towards easing travel restrictions, but it is a big step," said Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in joint press briefing with Krishna. Khar and Krishna also co-chaired a meeting aimed at promoting trade relations and promised to work together to resolve decades-old disputes.
Pakistan was ready to go ahead without being held "hostage to the past," Khar said, in reference to the three wars the two countries have fought since independence in 1947.
"We are ready to a new chapter in our relations," Krishna said.
Indian suspended an the peace process after members of the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based Lashkar-Tioba that left 166 dead.
Pakistan promised to bring to justice the alleged perpetrators of Mumbai attack, which has been a key Indian demand for normalization of ties.
The two sides also signed cultural cooperation agreement to increase social ties.