Liberalisation of visas

Published: April 29, 2012

Pakistan and India have steadily been making progress on a host of issues of common interest.

In yet another indication that the peace process between Pakistan and India is inching forward, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet has reportedly approved a relaxed visa regime which seeks to allow businessmen on multiple entry, non-reporting visas to travel to five cities with everyone else permitted to visit up to three cities. Taken in isolation, this seems like the kind of baby step that should certainly be welcomed but not necessarily seen as a harbinger of lasting peace. Doing so, however, would be a mistake. Rather than going for a grand gesture, the two countries have steadily been making progress on a host of issues of common interest, including trade, coupled with regular meetings between government officials on both sides. All this adds up to the best relations Pakistan and India have enjoyed in many years, a milestone that has been slightly obscured by the slow pace with which it has been achieved. For now, though, this may be the most effective way of normalising relations between the two countries.

There are certainly other small steps, even in the visa process, that can be taken to help the peace process along. As important as trade and commerce is, there are other fields where both countries should be welcoming visitors. The arts, culture and sports are all areas where person-to-person contact can help change hearts and minds. Making it easier for people from such areas to visit the other country is a low-risk and high-reward endeavour. In addition, now may be the right time to release all the fishermen held in India and Pakistan indefinitely for the crime of inadvertently crossing an unmarked border.

Even if all these measures are put into place, it would be naive to think that all outstanding issues between the two countries can be solved anytime soon. The twin problems of Kashmir and terrorism are unlikely to be negotiated in the foreseeable future and with the establishment in Pakistan and the hawks in India still exerting considerable influence, even those as committed to peace as the PPP and the Congress will not be able to make headway. Far better is the current approach that puts these issues on the backburner. Once enough steps have been taken to increase trust on both sides, these issues can be addressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Apr 29, 2012 - 8:43PM

    In my opinion and in last 64 years of historical prospective and the statments of Indian leaders and its defence establishment and Indias interference in Afghanistan shows that Liberalisation of visas or other steps for sound relationhips will not get fruits untill the Kashmir dispute is not resolved in accordance of aspirations of Kashmiris. India should take positive steps for the Kashmir settlement and make ground for tripartite talks process. Kashmir i believe is the key which will bring peace and stability in the region. Waste of time and political gimmick will create more tense, Ground realities and truth should be realisedRecommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 29, 2012 - 9:27PM

    @Raies mir: ” … untill the Kashmir dispute is not resolved in accordance of aspirations of Kashmiris. India should take positive steps for the Kashmir settlement and make ground for tripartite talks process. … “

    You wish for a solution as per “Kashmiri aspirations”, yet you insist on a tripartite talk process. Are you going to sit at the table to tell “Kashmiris” what their aspirations should be ?

    One thing is for sure – the “Kashmir dispute” will not be solved to your aspirations.

    Recommend

  • Sid
    Apr 30, 2012 - 12:53AM

    @Arijit Sharma:
    Tripartite talks or not, Kashmiris deserves the right to self determination, as per the UN resolution. The fact alone in facilitating to forge a process should be an aspiration on both the sides. Any excuses in denying that right will remain the crux of the problem. Know it.

    Recommend

  • edgarm
    Apr 30, 2012 - 11:32AM

    @Sid:
    and what about self determination to Balochistan ?

    Recommend

  • Mannan Gil
    Apr 30, 2012 - 3:11PM

    @edgarm: and what about self determination to Balochistan ?
    LOL.. let’s get you out of Afghanistan first. Hindu Consulates are the Dens of terrorism. This terrorism in balochistan will end , Just like when Soviets withdrew in 1989. Everything came to normal. We Know how big a terrorist Nation Hindu Regime in this region is. By the way, start giving your Govt’s Testimony about the Mass graves found in kashmir. Lots of UN Agencies are interested in it.

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  • G. Din
    Apr 30, 2012 - 3:43PM

    @Sid: to Arijit Sharma
    “Any excuses in denying that right will remain the crux of the problem. Know it. “
    So be it! No peace is worth having if negotiated in the shadow of a gun or blackmail or which infringes territorial integrity of India. Know that!

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  • Raman
    Apr 30, 2012 - 4:23PM

    @Raies mir .. Forget about Kashmir. Just by talking about Kashmir since last 64years, you can see condition pf Pakistan now. More you shout about ‘K’, that much disintegration you can find in your society.

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  • ayesha_khan
    Apr 30, 2012 - 8:35PM

    Anytime India shows goodwill whether in 1999, 2008 or now, Pakistanis think this is a sign of Indian weakness which can be used to get their way on Kashmir. The posts from Pakistanis on this blog clearly show that. At some point you all need to realize that you have tried everything and nothing has worked. Recommend

  • Apr 30, 2012 - 8:46PM

    Kashmiris have right to decide their political future. Today or tommorrow they will get it.Writing on wall. World peacef loving countries and conscience duty is to work for resolution of Kashmir which will peace and stability in the region. And stop human rights violations in Kashmir who are facing sufferings due to military might policies of India.

    Recommend

  • Apr 30, 2012 - 8:51PM

    @Raman:

    Kashmiris have right to decide their political future. Today or tommorrow they will get it.Writing on wall. World peacef loving countries and conscience duty is to work for resolution of Kashmir which will peace and stability in the region. And stop human rights violations in Kashmir who are facing sufferings due to military might policies of India.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Apr 30, 2012 - 11:19PM

    The visa should be granted just like the US does. They should make a profile of people with age, single or family travellers, education, status in society, previous travel records and most imp have they ever visited Pakistan/India before. If they have visited before and have done nothing unlawful then no reason to bother them again and again. Similarly a middle age doctor with his family is not going to indulge in unlawful or terrorist activities. Of course there is no fool proof method but this can screen out lot of suspecious characters who can spoil the friendship.
    The problem of Kashmir must be between their respective countries only and the other country should mind their own business. Of course nobody can crush a real freedom movement and the US can solve that not the neighboring country.

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  • Sid
    May 1, 2012 - 12:27AM

    @edgarm:
    You already know the difference. There is no UN resolution of any kind over any issue for Baluchistan. And you also know that what whatever problem there is, it is due to the repressive Tribal society that has been ruled by the brutal Sardars. As much as you try, there are no parallels that could be drawn between the two. There is a need to come out of such mind set and face the realities on the ground.

    Recommend

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