26/11 a stumbling block on Pakistanis' travel plans | india | Hindustan Times
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26/11 a stumbling block on Pakistanis' travel plans

india Updated: Jan 20, 2009 12:09 IST
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Pakistani nationals planning a visit to India long for an early return of normalcy between the neighbours as they feel warm relations alone can end travel hassles they face even in their own country.

The diplomatic standoff post-Mumbai mayhem has complicated the process of obtaining visa and travel documents. Even if one manages a visa, the travails waiting in India are a wee bit embarrassing, said Bishop Joseph Coutts of the Faisalabad Diocese in Pakistan.

"The worst (Mumbai siege) happened when things were moving at the right direction. People-to-people contact was very promising and it could have nurtured bonds and created a better atmosphere," the Church leader, who was here en route his ancestral town in Goa, told PTI.

According to him, prospective travellers to India from the neighbouring country have to submit themselves to unusual formalities. One has to even furnish the resident and identity proofs of his/her host in India.

"The prolonged process has its bearing on the number of visitors. The plane I boarded had passengers half its capacity," Coutts, whose father was a Goan, said.

"There are deep bonds between people on either side of the border. But, once we are in India, we are treated as aliens. We have to run between police stations to prove that we have no sinister plans."

Upon arrival in the country, one has to report to the nearest police station. While leaving for any other state, the procedure follows only to begin anew at the new place, Coutts said.

According to him, the current unrest is due to extremist elements.

"The young generation may not understand the cultural bonds between the people of both the countries. But, the oldies have a lot of sweet memories."

On the religious front, if you have any notion that Pakistan is an "intolerant" country to minorities, it is baseless.

"The church has all the privileges it enjoys in India. There is no government intervention in the running of educational institutions and hospitals. So is the case with other minorities. "There was scarcely any attack on Christians and churches. The only exception was after the 9/11 when a few extremists branded Christians in the country as supporters of the US and vandalised three churches," the head of 1,60,000 Christians said.

In 2001, 14 Christians were killed as Islamic hardliners attacked a church in east-central Pakistan's Bahawalpur in the aftermath of attack on world trade centre. But this was an exception to people's general perception on church and faithfuls, he said.

In Pakistan, Christians are a microscopic minority with little over two per cent of its population.