Pakistan, India Launch Visa Pact

NEW DELHI – Pakistan and India sealed an agreement to ease tough visa restrictions for travellers on Friday.

The accord was signed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his Indian counterpart, weeks before the two cricket-loving nations play their first series in India since the Mumbai attacks.

“This is not only historic but this is a step forward for the two countries in the progress of peace,” said Malik during a three-day visit to New Delhi.

Under the previous arrangement, Pakistani business travellers were restricted to certain cities, prohibiting their travel from Delhi to the nearby thriving business hub of Gurgaon without permission.

Businessmen had to report to Indian police stations in the evenings ‘like a criminal’, Pakistani trade official Zafar Mahmood complained in April during a Pakistani trade fair in New Delhi. Indians visiting Pakistan face similar restrictions.

The change will permit visitors to travel to five places now instead of three and some businessmen will get multiple-entry visas, exempting them from reporting to the police.

The two governments agreed to relax visa rules in principle in September, when former Indian foreign minister SM Krishna visited Islamabad.Agencies

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