Dubai: India and Pakistan signed a watershed agreement last week easing visa rules for travellers to each other’s countries, but it may take a few months before it translates into changes on the ground.
Indian authorities said both sides are keen to ratify the agreement at the earliest so that it can be implemented, but the initial excitement of many cross-border couples has given way to scepticism.
Namrata Kumar, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, told XPRESS: “The liberalised visa agreement between India and Pakistan was signed just last week. Before it comes under operation, it has to be ratified at both ends… it is a very important agreement and part of India’s step-by-step graduated approach towards normalisation of its relations with Pakistan.”
She said: “The ratification process generally takes time – between three to six months. However, since both countries are keen to make the agreement operational at the earliest, we anticipate that this should not take much time.”
The Indian Consulate in Dubai said it received 63 visa applications from Pakistanis in August against 53 the previous month. “It will be difficult to attribute this slight increase to the new visa rules. We will be in a better position to analyse the impact of the new rules on the number of applicants only once these are implemented,” it said.
In a message to potential applicants, the Indian consulate said: “As the schedule for India visit is pre-decided in most cases, applicants are requested to apply at any of the authorised BLS centres at least three months before the expected journey date.”
But cross-border couples who have not had a bright experience with their visa applications so far said they are now in a wait-and-watch mode.
Floyd, a Dubai-based event manager from Karachi who is married to an Indian, said he had applied for a visa in June soon after news of the impending visa regime broke, but the outcome was “disappointing”. “Two weeks ago, I came to know from BLS that my visa has been rejected but I was not notified about the grounds of rejection,” he added.
Zubair Farooqui, a Dubai-based Indian with a Pakistani wife, said: “The new rules don’t excite me as I don’t see any benefits for cross-border couples. Why can’t we get visas on arrival?”
What the New Visa Rules Entail
• 30-day tourist visas for 10-50 member groups approved by travel agents.
• Two-year multiple-entry visas for families of individuals married to a national of the other country. Only one person will need to report to the police..
• Visa-on-arrival (valied for 45 days) for senior citizens (65 years and above) and children below 12 years at the Wagah-Attari border. No reporting to the police.
• Entry and exit will not be binding on the same point. Number of cities that a visitor can go to rise from three to five.
• One-year visa for businessmen, can visit five places with four entries
• 15-day visa for pilgrims visiting shrines