India and Pakistan Friday formally operationalised a new visa agreement that would facilitate multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen, besides allowing visa on arrival for the elderly.
The new agreement would replace a 38-year old tardy visa regime signed in 1974 by two countries.
Announcing the new regime, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, "This new visa regime will pave the way in promoting people-to-people contact. We have already issued circular to all Indian missions abroad and state governments notifying the introduction of the new visa regime."
On the occasion, visiting interior minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik said, "Time has come to forget the old days. This visa regime will take bilateral relations forward. It will bring good trade, will remove this miscommunication...This is not only a historic step but a step forward for peace that we are looking for generations."
He said people travelling from Wagah to Lahore would get a "complimentary ride".
The new agreement would facilitate multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen, allowing them to visit five cities instead of three as per the older system.
It would exempt police verification for businessmen with an annual income above Pakistani Rs. five million or annual turnover above Pak Rs. 30 million or equivalent in Indian currency travelling on business visa, a statement issued on the occasion said.
"Now entry and exit from different designated immigration check posts can be allowed, if indicated in application. However exit from Wagah-Attari on foot cannot be accepted unless the entry was also on foot via Attari-Wagah," it said.
Under the new regime, visa on arrival to citizens over 65 years will start in four weeks from January 15. The visa will be for 45 days with single entry at Attari-Wagah checkpost.
The two countries had signed the new regime on September 8 with an aim to facilitating travel for the nationals of both countries and promoting people-to-people contact.
The two countries would also operationalise from March 15, 2013 the group tourist visa for a period of 30 days which would be issued to tourists travelling in groups of 10-50.
"Group tourist visa for 30 days may be issued for travel in groups with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members in each group, organised by approved tour operators/travel agents," the statement said.
The new regime would also allow entry and exit from different designated immigration check posts, if indicated on the application. However exit from Wagah-Attari border would not be accepted unless the entry was also on foot from the border.
The arrangement would also allow, in exceptional cases, issue of visa for upto two years as against the one year provision in the older regime.
However, the two-years visa would be given only for persons above 65 years or national of one country married to national of the other country and children below 12 years accompanying parents in the latter case.