Pakistan American Business Association

Pakistan, India Support Liberalising Visa Access

Source: Business Standard

The recent thaw in relations between India and Pakistan after the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final between the two countries is set to show results. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said the government was positive to the idea of liberalising visas to frequent travellers from the neighbouring country for greater people-to-people contact.

During the home secretary-level discussions in Delhi this week, senior officials of both countries had agreed to set up a joint working group to work towards easier visa access on both sides.

“There was a suggestion in the home ministry talks that the two sides should meet again and a joint working group be constituted to explore further liberalisation of the visa regime,” said Chidambaram.

Senior officials had elaborated that a liberalised visa regime could mean visas for journalists, businessmen, senior citizens and patients coming for medical treatment, who could travel across the country and were not limited to a specific city. The home minister also said the commission that would visit Pakistan to find out more about the 26/11 episode will have limited legal jurisdiction to collect detailed information.

On Tuesday, Pakistan had agreed to the long-standing demand of Indian authorities to send a panel to investigate and collect details of the Mumbai attacks. Interior secretary of Pakistan, Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, had also invited Home Secretary G K Pillai to Pakistan for the next round of home secretary-level talks.

On the second day of their meeting, Pillai and Chaudhary had announced in a joint statement that the two sides had agreed for setting up a joint working group to give a final shape to the visa procedures between the two countries.

Senior officials in the government had revealed that the Indian authorities had proposed to relax norms and procedures for people who have valid visas and want to travel within a span of two years. The Indian side had said this could remove the lengthy background security checks that have to be carried out in the country. The Indian High Commission would be authorised to issue travel permissions to those travellers.