India

India puts visa deal with Pakistani on hold

A paramilitary soldier stands guard beside a border gate at the India-Pakistan joint checkpoint at the Wagah border near Lahore 6 January 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The visas were to be issued at the Wagah crossing

India has put on hold a plan to issue visas to Pakistani senior citizens on arrival, amid fresh tension between the two countries.

Home Secretary RK Singh told the BBC that the policy, due to come into effect on Tuesday, had been put on hold for technical reasons.

There was no immediate indication of when the practice might be introduced.

Violence in Kashmir has plunged India and Pakistan into the worst crisis since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Two Indian and two Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the last week in clashes near the Line of Control dividing the disputed region.

The visa policy, decided in September, was part of a bid to improve ties between Islamabad and Delhi.

Under the deal, citizens aged over 65 were to be issued 45-day, single-entry visas so they could visit friends and relatives.

The visas would only be available at the Wagah land border crossing near Lahore, and would be issued every day between 10:00 IST (04:30 GMT) and 16:00 IST (11:30 GMT).

Pakistani senior citizens would be allowed to visit a maximum of five places in India, but not Indian-administered Kashmir, Punjab, Kerala and "other prohibited areas", an Indian statement said.

Only two visas could be obtained each year and the Wagah crossing would have to be made on foot.

The visitors would reportedly be exempted from reporting to the police, which is mandatory for most Pakistani travellers in India.

Correspondents say Indians and Pakistanis find it extremely difficult to travel to each other's countries because of tough visa restrictions, so the easing of travel restrictions would have been be widely welcomed.

India suspended a peace process with Pakistan following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Negotiations resumed in February last year.

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