Single city visa for Pak spectators

New Delhi: India will grant around 5,000 single city visas to Pakistani spectators to witness the upcoming limited over Indo-Pak cricket series and requests for permission to enjoy remaining matches of the tournament will be decided on a case-to-case basis.

India will also allow the pre-match visit of Pakistani security experts to the five venues where the cricket matches will be played.

Home Ministry officials said around 5,000 visas will be granted to Pakistani spectators to watch the series beginning December 25 and they will be given single city visa.

However, if any spectator desires to watch more than one match, the plea would be considered on a case-to-case basis, they said.

The series would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals between December 25, 2012 and January 6, 2013. The ODI matches will be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

A high-level special committee, comprising officials of Home Ministry and security agencies, will meet on Monday to firm up visa guidelines including types of visa to be given to Pakistani cricket fans.

Officials said extra precautions were being taken before granting visa as several Pakistanis in the past have gone missing after arriving in India to watch cricket matches.

Asked about Pakistan Cricket Board`s proposal to send a team to India to take stock of the security arrangements, Union Home Secretary R K Singh said, "If any security team comes from Pakistan, we will welcome them".

Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley during his interrogation had said that many Lashker-e-Taiba activists had carried out recce of vital installations in Delhi including the National Defence College after having secured visas for the Indo-Pak cricket match in 2007.

"Though in the past, India had been liberal in granting visas to Pakistani cricket fans, this time stringent measures may be adopted before issuing them," an official said.

Home Ministry officials said the Indo-Pak landmark visa agreement, signed in September, aimed at easing travel restrictions is also expected to be operationalised before the cricket series begins.

The visa agreement, signed by then Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad on September 8, eases curbs on issuing visas to traders, elderly people, tourists, pilgrims, members of civil society and children.

The Home Ministry is also expected to discuss soon with governments of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat and the Delhi Police on various security related issues in the venues and how to ensure fool-proof security during the matches.

A number of high-level Pakistani dignitaries are expected to come to India to watch some matches.


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