India-Pakistan: Visa For Trust And Friendship
by Devika Mittal
Can you imagine the situation where we can meet a stranger who looks very different from us, speaks a different language and has different beliefs and values easily but can’t meet our own brother? Or when we are allowed to travel thousands of kilometers without much hassle but to travel mere 50 kms, we have to give a thousand reasons, documents of all kinds and wait endlessly but without any assurance of success?
Such is the relationship between India and Pakistan. Even after 65 years of the fateful parting of ways, India and Pakistan has failed to establish a normal relationship. Even after several efforts by the civil society in both countries, the states refuse to surrender their ego and help in establishing in trust. However, people in both countries have acted much more mature and have moved on. They are ready for a strong bond of friendship and brotherhood. Many Pakistanis cross the border for medical treatments. Similarly, traders and business men have also increasingly moved beyond the borders. Education has also emerged to be a reason for crossing over to India. Music has been one of the strongest agents for the change in indo-pak relations.
But, a little problem in the states’ relations and the next thing you know, the singer has been sent back or has been barred from coming to India. There have also been reports where the singer blames the organizers in the host country for not helping in the visa, leading to major tussles. The most severely affected people are those who come to India for medical treatments and what about those who have relatives here? People, especially, in the border areas, have relatives in Pakistan and vice versa. Can we imagine their pain of not being able to see their relatives for years? I have read stories where siblings got separated during the partition. The visa problem is more severe for Kashmir. A Pakistani is not allowed to visit Kashmir. What about the Pakistanis who have relatives in Kashmir? Why can’t he visit them?
India has also appealed to Pakistanis in the field of education. Many students apply but they are also denied visa. Reasons include frequent visits to India, involvement with an NGO in Pakistan etc.
There are also other restrictions concerning the visa. The processing time is too long. A Pakistani can not only visit Kashmir but has to apply the visa for a specific city. Multiple visits are also a problem.
It is not to say that security should not be considered, but we need to know who to target. Once in India, the Pakistani is, anyways, closely watched by the intelligence groups. The rule of applying for a particular city should be lifted. The person should be instead asked to report where he is going and for what, to the authorities. The authorities must monitor that. Those who have relatives or are here for education or medical treatment should also be debarred from the un-necessary hassle. Regarding the security, the reality is that the demons that conspire against India to unleash hell do not face much problem in getting the visas but the people with good intentions face all the hell in the world.
The Governments have recently announced that reforms will be introduced in the visa policy and it will become friendlier. We hope that it happens as without meeting each other, how can we think of friendship? How can we trust each other if we don’t get to interact? The misunderstandings exist because we don’t know each other, we have not seen each other, and we have not visited each other’s country? If we have friends in Pakistan, can we ever think of doing any harm to that country? The misunderstandings and suspicion exists because we think we are different. But are we, who speak the same language, look just the same, hold same values and beliefs and the same desire to visit each other’s country, really different?
Devika Mittal is a core member of Mission Bhartiyam and the convenor of Aaghaz-e-Dosti India.