'Visa on arrival put on hold as Pak demanded too many docs'



Islamabad: The visa on arrival scheme for senior citizens above 65 years at the Wagah border crossing was put on hold as Pakistan was demanding too many documents from Indian applicants, diplomatic sources said today.

The Indian side had put in place simplified procedures for issuing visas on arrival to Pakistani citizens, who were required to produce only a copy of their National Identity Card and a utility bill as proof of residence.

On the other hand, the Pakistani authorities wanted Indian citizens to provide several documents, diplomatic sources said.

Pakistan also insisted that Indian applicants should name a sponsor on the Pakistani side, they said.

With all such arrangements being implemented on a reciprocal basis, Indian authorities decided to put the visa on arrival scheme on hold, the sources said.

"The procedures will be changed and Pakistani citizens will be required to produce the same documents as the Indian citizens," a source said.

The visa on arrival scheme was scheduled to start on January 15 at the Attari Integrated Check Post under a new visa agreement signed by India and Pakistan last September to ease cross-border travel.

Initial reports had contended that the scheme was put on hold because of growing tensions between the neighbours over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control.

Indian officials have not announced any fresh date for operationalising the visa on arrival scheme.

Indian officials had earlier said the visa on arrival facility would not be available at any other immigration or border point and Pakistani senior citizens would be issued a 45-day, single-entry visa valid for up to five places.

They would also be exempted from police reporting, which is mandatory for most Pakistani travellers.

The visa on arrival facility can be availed only "to visit India to meet friends or relatives" and it cannot be used for business, medical, conference, employment, pilgrimage or any other purpose, an official statement had said.

PTI