Nothing new in India-Pakistan visa regime: Daily

Islamabad, Dec 16 (IANS) Though the new visa accord between India and Pakistan has raised hopes all around, obtaining a visa for most people "remains a hassle as before" and perhaps the only good news was the granting of visas to 3,000 cricket-crazy Pakistani fans, a leading Pakistani daily said Sunday.

"There is no doubt that both the new India-Pakistan visa regime and the bonhomie were welcome. But substance was lacking when Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sushilkumar Shinde, his Indian counterpart, celebrated the formal signing of the accord in New Delhi," the Dawn said in an editorial.

The new regime will increase the number of cities accessible to visitors from three to five, and exempt those holding a business visa from reporting to police.

"While these are positive moves, they hardly constitute a festive prelude to the cricket-crazy subcontinent's first series since 2007," the daily said.

It said that it was clear that despite several meetings between top officials since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, "the trust deficit has hardly been plugged" and "bureaucracy continues to hamper greater people-to-people contact".

The news about the new visa accord had raised hopes all around.

The Dawn said there were speculations that consulates would reopen in Karachi and Mumbai, police reporting would be done away with and visa processing would be easier in terms of the time taken and the volume of documents required.

"Not much of that sort has happened and obtaining a visa for most people remains a hassle as before. Perhaps the only real piece of good news in this context was the granting of visas to more than 3,000 Pakistani cricket fans."

The new visa regime "remains a baby step at a time when giant strides are needed to build up trust".

Indian officials continue to say there has been little progress in the trial of Mumbai attack suspects in Pakistan, and Islamabad has done little to assuage New Delhi's concerns.

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