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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Confusion marks start of visa-on-arrival

IANS  Attari, January 15, 2013
First Published: 20:54 IST(15/1/2013) | Last Updated: 23:30 IST(15/1/2013)

A new Visa-on-Arrival (VoA) regime for Pakistani senior citizens was to have been launched here on Tuesday but immigration officials said they had received a message from New Delhi asking them to put it on hold due to some "technical issues".

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No senior citizen from Pakistan arrived here for a visa while an Indian crossed the border gates into Pakistan.

"No senior citizen from Pakistan came on Tuesday to seek a Visa-on-Arrival. Otherwise, we were ready for it. We are awaiting further instructions," an immigration official said here.

The visa centre, set up at the integrated check post (ICP) at Attari, wore a festive look Tuesday. It was inaugurated Tuesday by Foreigner Regional Registration Officer SN Sharma.

From the Indian side, Chanchal Manohar Singh, a senior journalist, availed the facility to cross over to Pakistan to get his visa on arrival there.

The Lahore-Delhi bus, ferrying people from Pakistan, also crossed over into India. However, its passengers came with regular visas to India.

The new facility will help nationals, aged 65 years or more, from both countries to avail visa on arrival at the Attari-Wagah border and walk across to the other country.

Under an agreement signed by India and Pakistan September last year, senior citizens from both countries will be allowed visa on arrival at the Attari-Wagah land border joint check post, 30 km from Amritsar in Punjab.

However, those who are issued visas on arrival will be allowed to visit only those places or states mentioned in the visa. They will not be allowed to stay in Punjab and can only transit from the state. They will also not be allowed to enter Jammu and Kashmir, Kerela and some other states.

Those availing the visa on arrival will have to go back the same way (on foot) and cannot change the mode of travel.

However, people from India and Pakistan can visit the others' countries by bus, train, air or via sea. A limited number of people are allowed to cross the border on foot through the land route.

On an average, nearly 100 people cross the border everyday at Attari-Wagah on foot. Others travel by the Delhi-Lahore bus service or the Samjhauta Express peace train between both countries.

The Indian army has lodged a strong protest with the Pakistani army over the killings of two Indian soldiers Jan 8 and repeated violations of the ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC). One of the Indian soldiers was decapitated and his head carried back by Pakistani troopers.

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