INDIA and Pakistan have inked a landmark pact liberalising the visa regime between the two countries. A new group tourist visa has been introduced, while individual business and leisure travellers will also be able to visit more cities and enjoy an easier visa application process.
This replaces the visa pact of 1974, paving the way for increased travel both ways after years of frosty relations.
The group tourist visa will be issued to groups between 10 and 50 pax. Valid for 30 days, applications must be done through tour operators, impanelled by the two governments. It will also be available to students of educational institutions of both countries but cannot be used to seek admission in educational institutions of either country.
Travellers on a visitor visa will be allowed to visit thee cities instead of one, and a single-entry visa will be valid for six months for a stay not exceeding three months. This contrasts with the old single-entry visa that was valid for only three months. The visitor visa must also be granted within 45 days compared to the absence of a time limit in the past.
Meanwhile, senior citizens above 65 years old and children are no longer required to report to the police and will be granted visas on arrival at the Wagah border point of entry, close to Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Likewise, business travellers need not report to the police. They can obtain multiple-entry visas that will allow them to visit five cities instead of the current three.
Jatinder Gupta, partner, Dove Travels, India, said: “People of both countries are keen to visit places of interest in the other country and this (agreement) will finally open the floodgates of tourism between the two. A South Asian iron curtain has been lifted.”