The wrong message

Published: February 6, 2014
Indian visa regime will support tourists applying online followed by a three-day wait and, if approved, a pick-up at the airport that is the point of entry.. PHOTO: FILE

Indian visa regime will support tourists applying online followed by a three-day wait and, if approved, a pick-up at the airport that is the point of entry.. PHOTO: FILE

For a country with the tourist potential and business opportunities that India has, it has a visa regime that does little to encourage the foreign visitor or inwards investor — but that may be changing. Indian media is reporting that a change in the regime is under consideration, with visa restrictions for around 180 countries to be relaxed. As things stand, the majority of foreign visa applications require several weeks to process and applications have to be submitted at designated visa processing centres. Most tourists come from the UK, the US and other European countries, all of whom have to go through this tedious process. Now, the intelligence agencies have decided that they will support tourists applying online followed by a three-day wait and, if approved, a pick-up at the airport that is the point of entry. All of which sounds like very good news, except that Pakistan is not on the list of countries that are to see a relaxation of the rules.

Considering the potential for cross-border tourism given the shared cultural heritage, this is something less than a confidence-building measure; indeed, it is the opposite. If India really wants to lower the temperature of bilateral relations, it needs to be waking up to the reality that not all Pakistanis are terrorists. There are many Pakistanis who would choose to visit India for tourism given the opportunity. The families that were divided in 1947 are still split in many instances and would welcome a chance to renew family ties and meet with relatives on the other side of the border.

An emerging middle class with disposable income will buy into subcontinental tourism — and that goes both ways. Person-to-person contact is a proven way of defusing tensions. Paranoia and mistrust are both easily fed in India and Pakistan, with myths and half-truths and plain old lies told in the service of further dividing the two. The corrosive relationship that has been assiduously maintained by both needs to be dialled back and perpetuating old frictions in this way helps nobody.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Jat
    Feb 6, 2014 - 1:22AM

    Considering the potential for cross-border tourism

    Considering the potential for cross-border terrorism, India should stop issuing visas to Pakistanis.


  • unbelievable
    Feb 6, 2014 - 1:25AM

    Maybe the most naive Editorial written —- anywhere/anytime.


  • ajeet
    Feb 6, 2014 - 1:32AM

    There is nothing in common.


  • Ali
    Feb 6, 2014 - 2:42AM

    As a Pakistani I have to refute this. Why on earth would India want people from an enemy nation to walk freely in its country. They have good reason too. The Mumbai bomb blasts.

    Fact is, we need Indian tourism more than they need ours. We need to relax our visa regime for them to make money for ourselves. Whether they do or not for us is irrelevant, as long as they come and spend money here good for us.

    We need to be pragmatic and sensible, let them come and spend their money. It will only help out economy.


  • vasan
    Feb 6, 2014 - 5:04AM

    Visas-online can wait for Pakistanis, till the govt takes steps for removing mental indoctrination, closure of terrorism institutes and polio is eradicated.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 6, 2014 - 11:27AM

    A timely Editorial by ET, thanks for taking up this topic. The fact is most countries have visa policies on reciprocal basis. If Pakistan is sincere in its efforts we should liberalize visa with India to show our intent. Long ago I had taken a flight from India to Lahore. I had seen big tall Sikh youths crying at our immigration check points at the airports. The poor Muslim Indian women were not treated any better. When we treat each of them as criminals how can we expect a better treatment? We have to start with honesty, sincerity, and friendship not that beheaded bodies start appearing at the border or LOC. In my half a dozen trips to India I have never been treated without respect and fairness. In fact I found it very friendly and wish to spend my vacations there ASAP.


  • joy
    Feb 6, 2014 - 4:31PM

    I remember reading in this very newspaper the anguished column by no one else that Dr. Pervez Hoodhboy recalling how he was not allowed to enter the Indian High Commission in Islamabad by Pakistani secret service men where he had gone for a visa.Recommend

  • Jat
    Feb 6, 2014 - 5:58PM

    Mr Editor, what about polio ?Recommend

  • Ernesto Souza Suarez
    Feb 6, 2014 - 7:12PM

    Does exclusion from visa-on-arrival list convey a message that India is more cautious of visitors from Pakistan than it is from 180 other nations (180 is more like ‘the rest of the world’ by the way) – if so, the title of the editorial should be “The right message”, I’m afraid.Recommend

  • Francis D'souza
    Feb 7, 2014 - 6:00AM

    Pakistanis must forgive the Indian government for this “discriminatory visa” treatment.

    We still remember the memorable visit from the 10 Pakistani tourists on 26/11/2008.



  • Toticalling
    Feb 7, 2014 - 3:54PM

    you printed my comment, but has disappeared since then. wonder why?


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