ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has agreed to allow a group of Indian journalists to travel to its part of Kashmir and the tribal areas in a rare development that indicates gradual normalisation of ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
The Indian delegation, comprising journalists from print and electronic media, was due to arrive late night in Lahore on Wednesday for a week-long tour, a government official said.
The visit is arranged by the government and is part of an exchange programme between the two countries.
During their stay, Indian media personnel will conduct meetings with Pakistan’s political leadership and interactions with the think tanks as well as guided tours to certain parts of the country.
The highlight of the trip will be an opportunity for Indian journalists to travel to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the Swat valley, where Pakistan’s military flushed out militants in a major offensive in 2009.
“They (Indian journalists) are also expected to be taken to Waziristan,” said another official, who is managing the trip.
This is only the second time that Pakistan is permitting Indian journalists to visit AJK and the country’s tribal areas.
In the past, strict visa regimes coupled with the decade-old trust-deficit between the two neighbours made it impossible for nationals from either side, let alone journalists, to travel beyond designated places.
The Pakistan government’s decision to take journalists from India to Chakothi sector in AJK is significant given New Delhi’s allegations of militant infiltration from the Line of Control into Indian-administered Kashmir.
The move is also important in view of India’s claim that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant outfit active in Kashmir that was accused of being behind the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, is based in AJK.
Officials disclosed that senior military officials are also expected to brief the Indian delegation on key issues before it is taken on a helicopter to AJK, Swat and the tribal areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.