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Friday, Feb 03, 2006
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India & World
B. Muralidhar Reddy
ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and senior BJP leader, Jaswant Singh, on Thursday suggested that visa camps could be opened in the cities of Karachi and Mumbai till consulates were opened there.
Mr. Singh, currently on a week's pilgrimage visit as head of an 86-member delegation, was speaking in the port city of Karachi at a lunch hosted for him by the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).
The former Foreign Minister noted with satisfaction the growing people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan after the peace process revived in January 2004 and called for launching a ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi to facilitate travel and to boost bilateral trade.
There has been an inordinate delay in the opening of the Indian and Pakistan Consulates in Karachi and Mumbai due to the inability of Pakistan to find a suitable place in Mumbai to run its consulate.
Pending construction of its own consulate building in Mumbai, Pakistan is on the look out for a rented accommodation to house its consulate. It rented a place in one of the prime localities of the metropolis but the deal fell through after the residents' association objected to the consulate being on the premises.
The two countries had agreed in principle to re-open the consulates and even decided on January 1, 2006 as a tentative date. However, as a result of the problems faced by Pakistan in Mumbai, the opening of the consulates is expected to be delayed for several months though India is ready with its building in Karachi. Pakistan has insisted on a simultaneous opening of the consulates.
Mr. Singh said he was happy to visit Pakistan again. "I wrote a personal letter to President Pervez Musharraf expressing a wish to enter Pakistan from the Khokarapar-Munabao land route border to visit a Hindu temple in Lasbela district of Balochistan province. Within 10 days, President Musharraf ordered opening of the land border route which enabled me and 80 members of my delegation to visit Pakistan through Sindh province."
Earlier, MQM leader Farooq Sattar welcomed the re-opening of the Khokarapar-Munabao rail service from February 18 and said it would reduce travel time for those visiting India.
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