Easing visa restrictions
Both India and Pakistan have had strict visa policies owing largely to suspicion, mistrust, murky politics and, most importantly, recent terrorist attacks. Previously, visas from both sides were severely scrutinized and diligently monitored. Travelers were issued three week visas, were only allowed to visit up to three places at a time and were asked to report to police stations to record their arrival and departure. Stringent policies such as these posed great obstacles for families undertaking social visits, businessmen hoping to interact with their counterparts, or even academicians and peace activists striving to make a difference.
However, during a recent meeting of the Joint Working
Group, visa restrictions are expected to ease. The meeting, which followed decisions made at the Home Secretary level, was led by Anil Goswami, Additional Secretary (Foreigners), Ministry of Home Affairs, and Nasar Hayat, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Pakistan.
The talks are aimed at proposing six-month social travel visas and one-year multiple entry visas for senior citizens, women from one country married to men from another, their children and eminent persons. Senior citizens may also be given visas on arrival if traveling by road. Business visas will be multiple entries for up to a year and both countries will grant transit visas for up to 36 hours to their citizens. Tourist group visas will also see changes and will be granted 30-day visas with the caveat that registered travel agents arrange travel and groups consisting of more than 10 people.
Though not yet finalized, it is expected that such changes will go a long way in deepening understanding on both sides and facilitating greater interaction and cooperation.