New Delhi, March 14: A group visa regime with Pakistan that was to be operationalised from tomorrow has been put off indefinitely, with government sources linking the decision to yesterday’s attack in Kashmir.
Officially, the Centre said the plan had been suspended as “there was no response” from Pakistan. The proposed regime had been on the backburner because of what the Prime Minister last week described in Parliament as the continuation of the “terror machine” in Pakistan, but the timing of today’s deferment was significant because of the terror strike on a CRPF camp.
The neighbours had agreed to the liberalised visa system last year to facilitate people-to-people contact.
The pact, launched with fanfare during then interior minister Rehman Malik’s controversy-shrouded visit, had two parts, both of which are now in limbo.
The first part, which would have included relaxed visa norms for children and old people, was to be implemented from January 15. But it was suspended on January 8, after an Indian army soldier was beheaded by alleged Pakistan troops across the border in Jammu.
According to the pact, the group tourist visa would have been offered for 30 days to tourists travelling in batches of at least 10 and a maximum of 50 under government-approved tour operators or travel agents.
Also under a cloud is the visa-on-arrival scheme for Pakistani nationals above 65 years that was to start at the Attari checkpost near Amritsar.
The suspension of the group visa launch came on a day the Pakistan parliament passed a resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru. They even demanded the return of his body to his family.
Officials in New Delhi described the resolution as a clear sign of “meddling in India’s internal matters”.
Earlier this week, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government would not return Afzal’s body.