ISLAMABAD, Sep 8: The nuclear armed neighbours that nurtured decades of suspicions and an attitude smack of bellicosity at last shun the haunting of their unsavoury past memories, by signing an accord envisaging a lenient visa regime, thus underlining a roadmap which can help them forge more cordial ties in the coming days.
The foreign ministers from both countries after holding a meeting in Islamabad on Saturday reached an agreement of making the visa regime more flexible for the citizens, traders and old people of both countries.
The much trumpeted visa regime agreement was signed by Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Pakistan Interior Minister.
“We will move forward. We will not be held hostage to history,”, a jubiliant looking Pakistan foreign minister remarked during a joint news conference after signing the agreement.
“We must learn from the past and not miss any more opportunities. Pakistan is committed not to lose any opportunities. Pakistan is committed to creating new opportunities,” she said.
Khar said that the two countries had made progress during the last one year because of their engagements at all levels.
The foreign minister assured that by the end of this year, Pakistan would do trade with India like it was doing with other countries of the world.
Krishna also expressed satisfaction over the progress in the ongoing talks between the two countries and informed that both the sides agreed to fight terrorism in an effective manner.
“They are cognizant that there is a long way to go, and the path will not be easy but they are committed to moving forward in order to writing a new chapter of peace and cooperation in their relationship,” he said.
According to the new visa regime, more concessions have been given to the businessmen from both the countries with giving them multiple entry one year visa with the exemption from the Police Report and with increasing the number of cities.
As per the agreement, big investors and traders will be given 3-year multiple visas and a 6-month transit visa while smaller investors and traders will be given a 1-year multiple visa.
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 a visa from embassies in New Delhi and Islamabad.
The new visa policy between India and Pakistan has eased restrictions on visitors from both the countries. Another ease for senior citizens is that they will be granted visas on arrival at the Attari and Wagah border in India and Pakistan respectively.
Under the new arrangement, senior citizens will be granted a visa on arrival valid for 45 days.
There will be a single-entry visitor visa for a maximum period of six months but the stay cannot exceed three months at a time and for five places (currently limited to three places).
Group tourist visas, for groups of 10-50 people, has also been introduced for the first time. This will also be available for students provided they do not seek admission in the other country. The business visa will have to be issued within five weeks.
Another simplified rule will allow people to enter and exit from different check posts and change their mode of travel. This was not permitted earlier.
"However, this is subject to the exception that exit from Wagah/Attari, by road (on foot) cannot be accepted, unless the entry was also by foot via Attari/Wagah," the statement said.