India has started issuing visas on arrival for senior Pakistani citizens, a facility that was suspended following the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers along the LoC on January 8, which subsequent heightened tensions in bilateral relations.
The facility was supposed to begin from January 15 this year, as part of the new liberalised visa pact between the two countries.
“We have launched visa on arrival facility to Pakistani senior citizens at the Attari Integrated Check Post from April 1,” a Home Ministry official said.However, no decision has been taken on the stalled group tourist visa facility to Pakistani nationals.
The two countries had agreed to operationalise the group tourist visa facility to be offered to each other’s citizens from March 15.
Though there is no visible forward movement in India- Pakistan bilateral relations, the reason for the sudden launch of the visa for Pakistani senior citizens was not immediately known.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March had said that the barbaric killing of Indian soldiers in Kashmir had cast a shadow on bilateral relations and asked Pakistan to create a conducive environment to take the normalisation process forward.
Singh had said he was yet to see any “tangible progress” in dismantling of terror infrastructure in Pakistan and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks.
Earlier also, Singh had said that it cannot be “business as usual” between the neighbours following the LoC incident.
The new visa agreement was signed last September to ease cross-border travel as part of a number of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).
Some clauses of the relaxed visa regime like multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen and allowing them to travel to five cities instead of the earlier three were operationalised when Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited New Delhi in December.
(With inputs from agencies)