New visa regime waits as Pak dithers
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There is frustration in the Indian establishment over the delay from the Pakistani side in operationalising the new visa regime signed last month. Islamabad wants a joint ceremonial launch of the revised visa services but is yet to suggest dates.
India was all set to operationalise the agreement, signed during External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's visit to Pakistan last month, from October 1. But Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik requested a joint launch in the presence of the two home ministers, possibly at Wagah.
But a month after the request was made at a meeting of SAARC home ministers, Pakistan has not suggested any dates. Sources said Pakistan has not even completed the formalities to make the agreement operational.
"No more than a few hundred Indians will benefit from the liberalised rules, but from Pakistan's side the numbers will be in thousands. So it makes a lot of sense for Pakistan to expedite the process," an official source said, adding, "There is a slight irritation, considering that we are ready with everything."
The new visa rules will make people above 65 years and under 12 years of age eligible for 'visa on arrival' if travelling through the Wagah border. The concept of tourist visas has been introduced, though it will initially apply only to groups of people larger than 10 and smaller than 50. Visas can be issued for visiting up to five cities, instead of the three allowed currently.
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