The issue of the complex visa regime between India and Pakistan has been thrown into the limelight once again with the Indian actor Anupam Kher being denied a Pakistani visa. The actor was set to attend the Karachi Literary Festival which begins on Friday. According to him the denial was due to the non-issue of a no-objection certificate by the Pakistani Interior Ministry.
Pakistani daily ‘Dawn’ blamed the byzantine and thoroughly nebulous visa regime between India and Pakistan for the current fiasco. The exact reason for not issuing visa is still unclear, though speculations are rife. According to Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Anupam Kher never submitted a visa application. But the Literary Fest’s organizer revealed they were told not to apply for Kher’s visa.
Dawn in its editorial ‘ Indo-Pak visa regime’ observed that the plight of the public would be more severe when even celebrities have to jump through hoops to get a visa. “It can be well imagined what the common Indian or Pakistani has to go through when applying to visit the ‘other side’. The fact is that miles of red tape have been put up by both bureaucracies to consciously discourage people from putting in a visa application” the daily observed.
“India requires Pakistanis applying for a visitors’ visa to submit a ‘sponsorship certificate’, in which their Indian host promises to vouch for their ‘good conduct’ while in India. Also, for the vast majority of visitors with police reporting visas, the exercise can be a nightmare, with people often shaken down for bribes over minor technical issues,” it added.
The visa regime is governed by a 2012 agreement and despite its safeguards the agreement falls well short of being liberal. The editorial also cited the huge delays in visa processing as another detriment. It stressed the need for making the visa norms more liberal to foster people to people contacts to make the dream of a connected South Asia a reality.