CHANDIGARH: Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has sought the intervention of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for taking slew of measures to facilitate issuance of visa to Pakistan by opening an office of the Consulate General of Pakistan/Indian High Commission at Amritsar/Lahore.
In a communiqué sent to Union Home Minister today, Badal said that he was happy for the fact that India and Pakistan were moving towards a liberalized visa regime that will help trade and also cement people to people ties. He emphasized that trade and cultural ties create a more congenial atmosphere within the two countries and ensure development on both sides of the border and both government should initiate all steps to push this process further.
Badal reiterated the long outstanding demand of people and said that we should take steps to open an office of the Consulate General of Pakistan/Indian High Commission at Amritsar/Lahore so that people could apply for visas without having to travel to Delhi/Islamabad. He said that both countries should also take steps to ensure that larger numbers of visas are issued allowing people to cross the border on foot.
Listing out the problems being faced by Indian nationals visiting Pakistan, he said that such cases are sent by the Pakistan High Commission to Islamabad and it takes almost two months for processing the visa. He said that Government of India should prevail upon the Government of Pakistan to curtail this waiting period.
He said that similarly, Pakistani nationals who intended to visit India required a sponsorship letter attested by a gazette officer and Pakistani nationals find this condition very difficult to meet. He suggested that traders who wished to visit India should be allowed to visit India if they seek an invitation letter from the Chamber of Commerce of the District and City where the trader wished to visit. The Deputy Chief Minister said that it would be useful to register trade associations (like the Cycle Parts Manufacturing Association, Karyana Merchants Association etc) and bodies like CII/PHD Chambers of Commerce at the National, State and District level so that on their recommendations the issuance of visas could be put on a fast track. Badal said that such a move would be a sufficient safeguard to ensure that only genuine traders visit India for furthering trade and commerce.
Stressing the need for encouraging medical tourism between both countries, Badal said that he has noticed that there was great potential for medical tourism. He said that patients in Pakistan who suffering from eye and bone diseases did not have access to appropriate surgical facilities. The Deputy Chief Minister said that India has good orthopedic and ophthalmic hospitals and if medical tourism was put on a fast track it would be a win-win situation as their people would get early treatment and this would generate economic benefits to our side.
Badal hoped that Union government would take proactive steps in this direction to further improve trade ties between both countries.