The long-pending promise to ease travel between India and Pakistan may finally get a fillip as the visa-on-arrival for senior citizens, aged over 65, is rolled out on January 15. The reciprocal system, as agreed upon last year, is all set to get operational but not without caveats.
While Pakistani nationals travelling by road will get the visa at the Attari Integrated Checkpost in Punjab, the State has been included in a list of places they will not be allowed to stay in.
“While the Pakistani national can enter only through Attari in Punjab, they cannot stay here and the State will be used only as a transit point,” said a government official on condition of anonymity. The Pakistani nationals would not also be allowed to stay in Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, restricted and prohibited areas (that include parts of Rajasthan, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and others). In all, the visitors would be able to visit five places. The visa would not be applicable for travel by air or sea, said the official.
Under the new liberalised visa regime, the senior citizen will be able to make two visits in a calendar year for 45 days each with a gap of two months. The visa fee has been revised to Rs. 100 or $2.
The move comes as a step towards actualising the September 2012 agreement inked by the then External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik after the conclusion of the Foreign Minister-level engagement at the end of the second round of the resumed dialogue.
The new visa regime — first major overhaul since 1974 — is expected to ease travel restrictions for business persons and will introduce a new category of group tourism, expected to be implemented soon.
“The idea behind the new visa regime is to build people-to-people contacts and create vested interests for peace in the areas of business, culture, sports, etc,” said an observer.
Currently, 80-100 people cross the border via the Wagah/Attari checkpost by bus or on foot, according to a spokesperson.
“I tried for 10 months before being able to get permission to visit my family in Uttar Pradesh. Hopefully with the new visa rules, it should be easier for us to travel frequently, ” said a passenger from Karachi.