Eas­ing visa re­stric­tions

Southasia - - 13 -

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.

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