By Arif Qoreshi
Pakistan and India have reiterated their commitment to work towards resolving all issues peacefully and build on relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation.
The convergence came during talks between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in Islamabad on Saturday.
Pakistan and India on Saturday signed a new liberal visa agreement, offering eight types of visas, including group, tourist and pilgrim visas. However, there will be separate visas for businessmen and those over 65 years of age.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik and External Affairs Minister of India SM Krishna signed the new visa agreement, replacing a 38-year-old restrictive visa regime.
Under the new agreement, citizens, aged 65 and above, would now be able to walk across the border between the two countries and need not go through the hassles of getting visa from embassies in New Delhi or Islamabad. Artistes would be able to have triple entries.
People aged more than 65, children below 12 and eminent businessmen were exempted from police reporting.
Under the new regime, a diplomatic visa valid for multiple entries will be issued to heads of diplomatic and consular missions, members of the missions holding diplomatic or consular ranks, their spouses and children and diplomatic couriers. This will be valid for the place and duration of assignment of the holder. It shall be issued within a period not exceeding 30 days of application. For visiting other places, special permission shall be sought. Diplomatic visas valid for single entry will be given to high ranking dignitaries holding diplomatic passports.
Non-diplomatic visas valid for multiple entries will be issued to non-diplomatic members of diplomatic and consular missions, their spouses and children and person servants of members of the missions holding diplomatic or consular ranks. This visa will be valid for the place and during of assignment of the holders. It shall, ordinarily, be issued within a period not exceeding 45 days of application. For visiting other places, special permission shall be sought.
Under the new pact, visitor visa will be issued to person visiting the other country to meet relatives or friends or for any other legitimate purposes. This visa will be valid for a maximum of five specified places and shall be for period not exceeding six months.
The visa shall also specify that the duration of stay of the visitor at time shall not exceed three months. Under a new Category II, a visitor visa for a maximum five specified places may be issued for a longer period, up to two years with multiple entries to senior citizens (those above 65 years), spouses of a national of one country married to a person of another country and children below 12 years of age accompanying parents.
The Group Tourist visa will be issued to not less than 10 people and not more than 50 people. This visa will be valid for 30 days and will have to be applied through tour operators, registered by the two governments. The Group Tourist visa facility will also be available to students of educational institutions of both countries. However, this will be a tourist visa only and not for seeking admission in educational institutions of either country.
There are Two Categories for Business Visas
Businessmen with an income of Pakistan Rs500,000 or equivalent per annum or annual turnover/gross sales of Pakistan Rs3 million or equivalent will be given one-year business visas for five places with up to four entries.
In Category II, businessmen with an income of at least Pakistan Rs5 million or equivalent per annum or turnover of Pakistan Rs30 million or equivalent per annum will be given one-year multiple entry business visas for up to 10 places with exemption of police reporting.
The visa shall specify that the period of stay of the businessman at a time shall not exceed 30 days. The maximum time taken in processing of a business visa will not exceed more than five weeks.
Under the new agreement, pilgrim visas will be issued to those intending to visit religious shrines in accordance with the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, or any future revision to the Protocol.
Such visas will need to be applied at least 45 days before the commencement of the intended tour. The visas will be issued at least 10 days before the commencement of travel. These visas will be issued for a single entry, restricted to 15 days validity and would be non-extendable.
Senior Citizen Visa
Under the new pact, persons of more than 65 years of age will be given visa on arrival at Atari/Wagha check posts for 45 days. This visa will be non-extendable and non-convertible.
How to travel?
Under the new scheme, people can enter and exit from different check posts and change in the mode of travel will also be permitted. The check posts, which are designated for the entry/exit for the nationals of either country going to or coming from the other country.
By Air: Karachi/Lahore/Islamabad (Pakistan) and Mumbai/Delhi/Chennai (India), By Sea: Karachi (Pakistan) and Mumbai (India), By Land: Wagha/Atari (by bus/train or on foot) and Khokhrapar/Munabao (by train) border check posts.
Where they Have to Register?
According to the agreement, holders of visitor visas shall be required to register themselves at the check post of entry and shall, within 24 hours of their reaching the specified place of stay, report their arrival, in writing, to the prescribed authorities or the nearest police station. They shall also make a similar report 24 hours prior to their intended departure from the place of stay. In the case of families, only one member of the family shall be required to appear before the registration authority for registering himself and the members of his family.
After the meetings between Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and India a joint agreement was also issued. Both Ministers discussed many issues but most important were:
- Counter-Terrorism and Narcotics Control
- Commercial & Economic cooperation
- Wullar Barrage
- Sir Creek& Siachen
- Peace & Security
- Jammu & Kashmir
1- No doubt both countries changed its decades old policy and facilitated ordinary people through the new visa system.
2- But at the same time Pakistan was expecting from the Indian foreign minister will announce the dates of Indian prime minister visit of Pakistan but it did not happen.
3- This is also seen that both countries compromised: Pakistan did not put the case of Kashmir and Indian side did not put the case of Mumbai attacks with full voice.
4- Jamat islami and other religious parties voiced against the Indian Pakistan agreement but in vain.
5- Only a salfi religious party markazi jamiat ahlhaidth demonstrated during the visit of Lahore, they were demanding to solve the Kashmir.
The writer is the editor of thefortress.com.pk