Concerned over increasing number of Pakistani-origin citizens living in the West being attracted to terrorism, the Government is contemplating to tighten the visa approval norms for such persons visiting India.
Home Ministry sources said the government was particularly concerned over the recent reports of five young Americans -- two of them Pakistani-origin -- arrested in Pakistan for links with Al-Qaeda.
The arrests came in the wake of busting of the Lashker-e-Taiba plot, in which the Pakistan-based terror group was planning to use David Coleman Headley, whose father was a Pakistani national, to launch terror attacks in India.
Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, an aide of Headley, was also arrested for his links with terror groups.
“These are disturbing reports as India is always a prime target of terrorists. We have to think ways which can effectively deal with such a sensitive issue,” the sources said.
Mandatory visa applications
Among the steps that are being mulled by the government include making it mandatory for visa applications of Pakistan-born citizens of any country to be cleared in New Delhi, fixing number of visits in a year and having reference letters from past travellers.
Government’s concern was amply reflected when Home Secretary G K Pillai had said time has come to “think the unthinkable” as terrorists were working on new strategies to break the country’s security.
“As we have seen from the David Headley case....nobody would look for a US citizen, with a US passport and a business visa, you would not think that he is a terrorist,” he said.
Pillai said if it can happen to a US national, it can happen to citizen of any other country.
“We are considering the steps as terror groups may try to use Pakistani-origin citizen of friendly countries for organising terror acts in India. We want to stop that by making it mandatory pre-verification of such visa applicants,” sources said.
Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said on Thursday that “the policy for issue of visas to all foreigners of Pakistani origin is under review“.
Because of the good relationship between India and countries like the US, Canada, Britain and Australia, citizens of these countries never have had any problem in receiving visas. This is applicable to many European countries which too enjoy good relations with India.
The government is also mulling similar action on citizens having roots in countries like China, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran but holding passports of other countries.
Among the five American youths arrested in Pakistan, one is of Egyptian-origin, one Ethiopian and one of Eritrean-origin.