India Begins Visa-On-Arrival Deal For Pakistani Seniors

by
staff
India is to begin issuing visas on arrival to Pakistani senior citizens, under a landmark deal aimed at easing travel between the two countries.

Wagah

India is to begin issuing visas on arrival to Pakistani senior citizens, under a landmark deal aimed at easing travel between the two countries.

Citizens aged over 65 will be issued visas at the Wagah crossing.

The move is part of a bid to improve ties between Islamabad and New Delhi, after they were badly damaged by the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

But there has been fresh tension between the two sides in recent days in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Two Indian and two Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the last week in clashes near the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

The violence has plunged the neighbours into the worst crisis in relations since the Mumbai attacks.

On Monday, Indian army chief Bikram Singh directed his commanders to respond "aggressively" to any firing by Pakistani forces in the region and the two sides held a meeting at the border aimed at reducing tensions.

Foot crossing

As per the September deal between the two neighbours, however, India will on Tuesday begin issuing 45-day, single-entry visas to Pakistani senior citizens to visit friends and relatives.

The visas will only be available at the Wagah land border crossing near Lahore. They will be issued every day between 10:00 IST (04:30 GMT) and 16:00 IST (11:30 GMT).

Pakistani senior citizens will be allowed to visit a maximum of five places in India except Indian-administered Kashmir, Punjab, Kerala and "other prohibited areas", an Indian statement said.

Only two visas can be obtained each year and the Wagah crossing must be made on foot.

The visitors will be exempted from reporting to the police, which is mandatory for most Pakistani travellers in India, reports say.

Correspondents say Indians and Pakistanis find it extremely difficult to travel to each other's countries because of tough visa restrictions, so the new agreement will be widely welcomed.

India suspended a peace process with Pakistan following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Negotiations resumed in February last year.