Pakistan based Hindu, Sikh families want a visa-free zone | india | Hindustan Times
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Pakistan based Hindu, Sikh families want a visa-free zone

india Updated: Apr 26, 2010 14:39 IST

Hindu and Sikh families settled across the border want a visa-free zone between India and Pakistan that will facilitate frequent visits to their relatives in India.

"Hundreds of Hindu and Sikh families, living in Pakistan for more than seven decades, approached me and expressed the desire to visit their relatives frequently in India. But visa problem restrain them all the time," Ramesh Singh, founder chairman of Pakistan Sikh Council, said.

Singh, who is presently leading a delegation of 150 Hindus and Sikhs, is staying at the guesthouse of the Golden Temple.

"Majority of Hindu and Sikh families are settled in Karachi. It is nearly 1,000 km away from Islamabad where one has to travel for visa. Pilgrim visa fee for India is just Rs 15 but travel expenses from Karachi to Islamabad and hotel stay is highly expensive," he said.

It is also not assured that one will get visa in a single visit as two or three visits are sometimes required due to want of mandatory documents in the Indian embassy.

"Most of the families marry their children in India and that is why every Hindu and Sikh family in Pakistan desire visa-free visit to India and similarly for the people living across the border on Indian side," Singh said.

The Attari land transit route near the Indo-Pakistan border was best suited for the creation of such a visa-free zone, he said.

Champa, a female member of the delegation, said: "My birth place is Pakistan but most of my relatives are settled in India. We want both Indian and Pakistan governments should allow people like us (to) be given a visa-free zone or provided lifetime visa."

Other members of the delegation also held similar views that a visa-free zone will help them reconnect with their Indian relatives.