Pak responsible for delay in visa liberalisation: Aiyar

New Delhi: Holding Pakistan responsible for delay in implementation of the liberalised visa regime, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on Monday said relaxation in norms was essential for improving trade relations between the two neighbours.

"I feel Pakistan is responsible (for failure to ink the liberalised visa regime)," he told reporters when asked about the reasons for India and Pakistan failing to sign the much-anticipated agreement for visa liberalisation.

Pakistan, Aiyar said, has suggested that such an agreement should be signed by ministers and not at the secretary level.

Recently, at the Home Secretary level meeting between India and Pakistan, both the sides failed to ink the pact and merely agreed to do it at an early date after Islamabad insisted on political participation.

Aiyar was speaking at a Ficci function on India-Pakistan relationship. "Lot of interaction between India and Pakistan businessmen has to take place. We must facilitate it through a visa regime. Unfortunately although some progress was made there…(but) was hold up on political grounds," he said, adding, "I am hoping, we will overcome this".

Aiyar also said trade should be backed up with mutual investments between the countries. "Unless this trade is backed up with huge amount of investments, it will be difficult to sustain it against political pressures, that will always work," he added.

Further, on normalisation of trade relations, Aiyar said: "If we are going to have a stable trade relationship, we have to recognise that some industries in Pakistan are going to be adversely affected." The Rajya Sabha member said both the sides should take steps to protect infant industries.

Pakistani industry had expressed concerns that opening of trade with India will affect small units.

Aiyar said India and Pakistan should consider doing trade in rupee. "We have to move towards banking facilities. We have to see how we can put payments on footing. I would love to see India-Pakistan trade done through rupee. If we do that, it will be a huge increase in trade," he added.

He also called for opening up of consulate in Karachi and completely open trade routes between Mumbai and Karachi. "Allow the trade to continue even if there will be some wrinkles on the sides," Aiyar said.

He pointed out that Indian goods are reaching Pakistan via UAE. "The Arabs are not interested in our goods…UAE exports to Pakistan are actually Indian goods," he said.

Ficci`s National Executive Member Vikramjit Singh Sahney said both the countries should consider starting negotiations for bilateral investment protection agreement. The bilateral trade stands at USD 2.7 billion.

On political issues, Aiyar blamed Pakistan for not resolving the Siachen dispute. Recently, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had said India should take a bold initiative to resolve the Siachen dispute that has been lingering for 23 years on the world`s highest battleground.

Aiyar said that Pakistan`s continuous and healthy relationship with India would help them in reducing the role of army in the neighbouring country. "They (Pakistan) have to move from the uniformity of Islam to work with diversity of South Asia to preserve their nationhood and that they can not do so long as there is hostile relationship with India," he said.

On terrorism, he said: "What we want from Pakistan to do is to stand and say I am guilty. Which sovereign country is going to do that. They are not going to do that. But they know that the country which is severely affected by terrorism is Pakistan".