An intricate visa regime dating back to 1974 remains one of the most telling indicators of the complex relationship between India and Pakistan. The new regime, which was to roll out on Tuesday, was meant to make travel relatively easy and improve people-to-people contact. Though it was to begin with visa-on-arrival for senior Pakistani citizens, New Delhi put it on hold at the last minute.
In fact, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had announced the operationalisation of the new bilateral India-Pakistan visa Agreement 2012, stating that visa-on-arrival at the Wagha-Attari immigration check post for Pakistani passport holders over 65 years of age comes into effect from January 15. It was not immediately known whether Pakistan would also defer the decision to implement the new visa regime.
Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik had insisted on the two countries implementing the new visa regime at the same time.
A look at the old visa regime shows how complex and illiberal it has remained across the categories for nearly 38 years. There was no timeframe for the acquisition of a visa, even for those holding a diplomatic passport from the date of application.
The new regime, however, sets a timeframe of not exceeding 30 days for diplomatic passports and 45 days for ordinary passports. The old regime had a single-entry visitor visa for three months to meet "relatives, friends, business or other legitimate purposes, limited to three cities". And this was to become a maximum period of six months, but stay would not exceed three months at a time and for five places.