India stops group tourist visa facility for Pakistani tourists before it starts


NEW DELHI, India – In a big blow to so-called “Aman ki Asha” (the peace initiative), the Indian Home Ministry decided not to start the group tourist visa facility to Pakistani nationals from tomorrow as it was scheduled, the Dispatch News Desk (DND) reports. “We are not going to operationalize the group visa facility to be offered to Pakistani nationals from tomorrow,” a senior Home Ministry official told the press.

No reason has been given for putting the group visa facility on hold. However, the decision seems to be taken on the pretext of the killing of five Indian soldiers from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in a suicide attack by militants in Srinagar yesterday.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in his statement in Indian parliament today blamed Pakistan for the killings. Pakistan has denied any link to the ambush.

The new visa agreement was signed last year in September and one part of it was operationalized in December, allowing freer movement of businessmen. However, after tension escalated at the Line of Control in January, other initiatives were put on hold.

The other parts of the new visa agreement includes the process of issuing visas on arrival at the Attari-Wagah border joint check post for Pakistani senior citizens, which was to begin in January, and group visas for tourists which was slated to launch from tomorrow.

The liberal visa agreement was signed by the two countries during Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s visit to New Delhi in September last year.