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May 7, 2012

Abolish visa regime even if India dithers, Nawaz tells Gilani

World

May 7, 2012

LAHORE: Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif on Sunday called for unilaterally abolishing the visa regime between Pakistan and India immediately.
Addressing an Indian delegation at his Raiwind residence on Sunday, Nawaz Sharif urged the Gilani government to step forward and take the initiative of abolishing the visa regime for facilitating the people of both countries so that people-to-people contact could accelerate the peace process.
The PML-N leader had invited the Indian delegates to dinner for an interactive session with the top Indian businessmen, who arrived here to participate in the two-day "Second Aman Ki Asha Indo-Pak Economic Conference" being hosted jointly by the Jang Group of Newspapers and Times of India Group. The conference is due to commence from today (Monday).
Highlighting the importance of ending hostilities between the two neighbours, Nawaz Sharif asserted, "Pakistan should move ahead with the decision of abolishing the visa regime unilaterally even if India hesitates to reciprocate the initiative at this point in time. I believe India will be forced to follow suit once Pakistan breaks this barrier. In my opinion, this step can go miles in bringing these two nuclear powers closer.î
He expressed his belief that peace initiatives would entail great prospects for mutual prosperity, and urged the government to open up the trade policy as well as relax the rules wherever possible. He added it was high time for seeking a resolution of all bilateral issues: ìWe have assured the government of [our] complete support in this regard. However, it seems, the government is not doing enough.î
Going back in time, Mian Nawaz Sharif recalled the Lahore Declaration, which was a historic achievement of his government in 1999. He told the delegates just how anxious the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was for taking the peace initiative to its logical conclusion. He said that PM

Vajpayee wanted 1999 to be remembered as the ìresolution year.î
Mian Nawaz Sharif highlighted the significance of peace in the region, stressing the need for a hands-on approach for settling all outstanding disputes. ìI was and am keen to normalise relations between the two countries. I had taken bold steps during our 1997-1999 tenure despite severe opposition from various quarters. We didn't have the privilege of getting support from within the political community either,î he added.
Nawaz Sharif appreciated the two media giants in the subcontinent for going an extra mile for the cause of peace in the region. He said the PML-N supported the initiative, and would keep on doing so till the objectives of the initiative were achieved. He lauded the efforts being made by these media groups, saying such attempts had better prospects of success, keeping in view the influence these media houses wielded over the broader cross-section of societies in both countries.
On their arrival at his Raiwind residence, the PML-N leader gave them a warm welcome. He also exchanged pleasantries with the delegates from the Indian Punjab in Punjabi. Other members of the Sharif family also interacted with the visiting delegates.
Among the India delegates were President Confederation of Indian Industry Adi Godrej, Chairman Bajaj Auto Limited Rahul Bajaj, Chairman Hero Cooperate Service Limited Sunil Munjal, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bharati Enterprises Limited Rakesh Mittal, Director General Confederation of Indian Industry Chandrajeet Banerjee, Vice President Confederation of Indian Industry Ajay Shriram, Chairman Shell India Vikram Singh Mehta, former Chairman NASSCOM Harsh Manglik and Chief Marketing Officer, Times of India Group Rahul Kansal.
Among the hosts who also attended the dinner were Shahrukh Hasan of the Jang Group, Pak-India Business Forum CEO Amin Hashwani and Azhar Abbas of Geo. Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal was also present on the occasion.