Pakistan clears visa accord, India welcomes it (Lead)

Thu, Nov 1 2012 17:39 IST | 4 Views | Add your comment
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New Delhi/Islamabad, Nov 1

A day after Pakistan's cabinet approved a liberalised visa agreement with India, India Thursday said it will activate diplomatic channels with Islamabad to implement the arrangement at the earliest.

The accord, which was signed during the visit of then External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad, eases curbs on issuing visas to traders, elderly people, tourists, pilgrims, members of civil society and children.

"We will activate diplomatic channels to implement it," Syed Akbaruddin, the external affairs ministry's spokesperson, told reporters in New Delhi.

Pakistan Information Minister Qamar uz Zaman Kaira told a press conference Wednesday that at a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, the members unanimously accorded approval to the relaxed visa agreement with India, which he hoped will promote people-to-people contacts.

A 38-year-old visa agreement has been replaced with the new accord, which says that a visa has to be issued in a period not exceeding 45 days from the application.

Under the new system, one can visit five places instead of three at present and those above 65 and children below 12 years of age and eminent businessmen are exempted from police reporting.

Under the category of "Visitor visa", under the new regime a single entry visa is to be issued for six months. But the stay should not exceed three months at a time. Earlier, only single entry visa for three months was issued for meeting relatives, friends, business or other legitimate purposes.

Under the 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 (above 65 years old), spouses of a national of one country married to a national of the other, and children below 12 years of age accompanying parents as given earlier.

The new "Group Tourist visa" will be issued for no less than 10 people and no more than 50 people. Valid for up to 30 days, this visa will have to be applied through tour operators registered by the two governments.

The Pakistan cabinet also approved three agreements regarding customs and certification issues, which were also signed by officials of the commerce ministries of both countries in September.

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