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Group visa for Pakistani nationals put on hold

March 14, 2013 18:36 IST

India on Thursday put on hold the proposed group tourist visa facility to Pakistani nationals from Friday in the wake of growing unease in bilateral ties following the killing of two Indian soldiers along the LoC and Wednesday's suicide attack in Srinagar.

"We are not going to operationalise the group visa facility to be offered to Pakistani nationals from tomorrow," a senior Home Ministry official told PTI.

No official reason has been given for the latest move.

The two countries had agreed to operationalise the group tourist visa facility to be offered to each other's citizens from March 15.

Government has already put on hold visa on arrival facility for senior citizens -- part of the new relaxed India-Pakistan visa agreement -- hours before its operationalisation on January 15 following heightened tension along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week had said that the barbaric killing of Indian soldiers in Kashmir had cast a shadow on bilateral relations and asked Pakistan to create a conducive environment to take the normalisation process forward.

Singh had said he was yet to see any "tangible progress" in dismantling of terror infrastructure in Pakistan and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Earlier also, the Prime Minister had said that it cannot be "business as usual" between the neighbours following the LoC incident.

Government is understood to have factored Wednesday’s suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Srinagar, suspected to be carried out by Pakistan-based terrorist groups, before taking the decision.

Five CRPF jawans were killed and 10 others injured in the incident.

According to the visa pact, group tourist visa would be offered for a period of 30 days to tourists travelling in groups with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members, organised by approved tour operators or travel agents.

The visa on arrival for Pakistani nationals above 65 years was supposed to start at the Attari integrated check post.

The new visa agreement between India and Pakistan was signed in September last year to ease cross-border travel as part of a number of confidence building measures.

Some clauses of the relaxed visa regime like multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen and allowing them to travel to five cities instead of the earlier three were operationalised when Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited New Delhi in December 2012.

An Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops while the mutilated body of another was found in January along the LoC. New Delhi had lodged a strong protest over the killings.

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