Pakistan wants visa-free travel, more trade with India

Published on : Sunday, November 24, 2013

VisaWith mounting pressure in his country as the drone attacks by US agencies continues in Pakistani areas, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a strong appeal over the weekend for speedy resumption of peace ties with India.

“We must aim to dismantle visa requirement between the two countries,” Sharif said choosing the unusual venue of the opening of a literary and cultural conference to voice the demand.

“India and Pakistan are mirror images of each other and therefore we must have good ties. This is a necessity,” he stressed.

A drone attack on Hungoo, a big city in the border province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has stepped up pressure on Nawaz Sharif. This is not the first US drone attack but is the first such strike in a ‘settled’ area. The attacks – targeted at the Taliban – have, however, incensed the entire nation. Imran Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaaf party has been organising countrywide demonstrations and threatening to block NATO supply routes to Afganistan that pass through Pakistan. Other leaders have said that it is time the nation took a call whether they want dollars or have their sovereignty compromised.

Sharif said that Pakistan’s priority under his regime would be to revive the economy and check terrorism. Not a day passes in Pakistan without terrorist attacks in some city or the other. “This is causing a lot of anxiety in the country and the US has replaced India as enemy number one. We now feel the need to build excellent relations with India,” said a senior civil servant.

Though Sharif wants visa requirements between two countries to be dismantled, presently the visa regime is very restrictive. Those over 65 are however allowed visa on arrival. This facility has recently been introduced but not much used.

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