Group visa for Pak nationals may be put on hold
The visa on arrival facility for senior citizens was also put on hold by India following heightened tension along t
New Delhi: After suspending visa on arrival for Pakistani senior citizens, India may put on hold the proposed group visa facility to the nationals of that country in the wake of the unease in bilateral ties following the killing of two Indian soldiers along the LoC. The visa on arrival facility for senior citizens - part of the new relaxed India-Pakistan visa agreement - was put on hold by India hours before its operationalisation on January 15 following heightened tension along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
The two countries had agreed to operationalise the group tourist visa facility to be offered to each other's citizens from March 15 but the move may be put on hold as there is no improvement in bilateral relations. "The decision has to be taken at the highest level. So far, we have no clarity whether the group visa facility will be operationalised on March 15 or not though we are preparing for it along with launching of the visa on arrival for Pakistani senior citizen," a senior Home Ministry official said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Wednesday said 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.
According to the visa pact, group tourist visa would be offered for a period of 30 days to tourists travelling in groups with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members, organised by approved tour operators or travel agents. The visa on arrival for Pakistani nationals above 65 years was supposed to start at the Attari Integrated Check Post.
The new visa agreement between India and Pakistan was signed in September last year 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 2012.
An Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops while the mutilated body of another was found in January along the LoC. New Delhi had lodged a strong protest over the beheading of an Indian soldier and brutal killing of another.