India suspends new visa scheme for Pakistanis
AMRITSAR: India’s government suspended a new programme to allow Pakistani pensioners to get visas on arrival at the border, citing technical glitches only hours after officials said it had begun Tuesday January 15, 2013.
Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters the scheme, which was designed to issue visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, had been suspended until further notice.
“Couple of points have to be ironed out on that. There are technical issues, documents required. We will iron it out after consultation with other agencies,” he said.
The suspension was announced the same day that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned neighbouring Pakistan that there “cannot be business as usual” between the two countries after last week’s deadly flare-up in occupied Kashmir.
Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesman for the home ministry, insisted to AFP that the decision over visas had “nothing to do with tensions along the India-Pakistan border”.
The visa deal was sealed last month, when the interior ministers from both countries met in New Delhi and decided to institute measures making cross-border travel easier.
The new agreement was to allow Pakistanis aged over 65 to arrive at the Attari/Wagah border and apply for a single-entry Indian visa for a duration of up to 45 days.
An Indian customs official on the border, who declined to give his name, told AFP earlier in the day that the process to issue visas had begun, but refused to say if any Pakistanis had made use of the facility yet.
According to The Times of India, government sources said that the announcement of suspension came after several agencies sought clarifications on amenities to be offered to the Pakistani citizens, though the persistent tensions along the LoC could be the evident reason. One of the objections raised by some agencies included whether it was a pre-requisite for visiting senior citizens to have a sponsor in India before granting them visa-on-arrival.