The recently held South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit resolved the issue of differential visa norms for Pakistani students and faculty for the South Asian University (SAU) coming up here, said official sources.

A dream project of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the SAU was fast becoming a victim of the India-Pakistan visa norms which prescribe police reporting and city-specific visas for nationals from the other country, whereas those from other SAARC countries are subject to normal visa procedures.

India has now conveyed that students and faculty from Pakistan headed for SAU will get visas on the same terms as their compatriots from other countries, in other words, there would be no police reporting requirements nor would they be restricted to specific cities with a maximum of three cities.

The issue was recently raised at the Steering Committee of the SAU, with Pakistan seeking equality with other countries since this was not an India-specific project.

This led to Islamabad even holding out the threat of withdrawing from the project if its citizens were subject to differential norms for a collaborative pan-South Asian project.

Islamabad had argued that restrictions would lead to their students being excluded from field trips and seminars at other cities.

The SAU is likely to begin operating in August with the Akbar Bhavan serving as a temporary campus. It will start full-fledged operations after five years on a 100-acre campus. Pakistan's request was backed by the University CEO G.K. Chaddha and other eminent academicians, who requested India to look into the existing norms and make an exception for Pakistani students and teachers headed there.

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