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India, Pakistan to ease visa norms
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April 21, 2008 19:33 IST

Visa norms for travel between India and Pakistan are expected to be made simpler within three months, a senior Pakistani official has said.The new visa policy, under discussion between the two countries, entails easier documentation process and extended validity period for both individual and group visa applicants, Pakistan's Tourism Secretary Shahzad Qaiser said  Monday. 

"Talks are in progress and new easier visa procedure is expected to be finalised within this quarter," Qaiser said.  observing that time was "appropriate to capitalise on the friendly environment."

"We are trying to promote congenial environment by revising our visa policies.Underlining that both countries needed to work together to improve the relationship," the Pakistani official said, "such measures should be carried out on the basis of reciprocity."

"The relationship would be strong when the two parties acknowledge and respect the identity of each other," he said, adding "Seeing the sensitivity of the relationship between the two countries, every step needs to be taken with great care."

Referring to the increase in the frequency of Delhi-Lahore bus service recently from twice weekly to three times a week, he said it was an important step towards improving people-to-people contact between the two countries.Qaiser, who was here in connection with the South Asian Travel and Tourism Exhibition, which concluded Sunday, emphasised that tourism needed to be utilised as an institutional forum to encourage contacts between peoples of the two countries.

The Pakistani official said his country was willing to liberalise religious and culture tourism for Indian pilgrims besides increasing sporting contacts. Similarly, he said, Pakistani pilgrims want to visit Charar-e-Sharif in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] and several other religious shrines in other parts of India. 

Qaiser also acknowledged the contribution of the film industries of both the countries in enhancing ties.Talking of screening films in each other's country, he said such steps would help in getting better understanding about each other.

The Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye was screened across India recently while Aamir Khan's [Images] Tare Zameen [Images] Par was also shown in Pakistan.On SATTE 2008 in which Pakistan participated for the second time in 15 years, Qaiser said such events would help sustain interaction between the people of the two neighbours."We are also planning to invite India for a similar tourism event which is likely to be held in September by Pakistan's Punjab Tourism and Development Corporation," he said.

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