Bolster regional integration, trade to improve India-Pak ties: Pakistan daily

Islamabad, Feb 21 (IANS) The key to improving India-Pakistan ties would be to bolster regional integration and trade, diplomats and political experts have said.

However, integration — as well as peace and normalisation — will remain a pipedream unless the visa regime in the subcontinent is liberalised, a Pakistani daily said in its editorial.

“There was no better way of improving relations between Pakistan and India than trade,” Dawn online quoted Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale as saying while speaking at a programme in Lahore recently.

“This is quite true, while calls for an integrated and connected South Asia are also imminently sensible. But what are the respective governments doing to encourage trade or even people-to-people contact? Not much apparently,” the daily said.

For example, the exercise of getting a visa for the other country by a citizen remains a test of endurance and commitment, it said.

“In Pakistan, citizens can apply for an Indian visa through courier services, which saves a trip to Islamabad. But the process is both lengthy and bureaucratic, with applicants having to secure ‘sponsorship’ letters from their Indian hosts as well as attaching a thick file of paperwork.”

While in India, those desiring to visit Pakistan have to come to New Delhi to lodge a visa application with the Pakistan High Commission, it said.

If one is lucky enough to get a visa, the modes of transport to cross the border are relatively limited. For instance, the Thar Express — the train service that links Sindh and Rajasthan and which has been running for 10 years now — continues to suffer from inadequate infrastructure.

“Both governments can easily remedy this situation by easing visa procedures and making them less complicated, increasing the options for cross-border travel and reopening deputy high commissions in Karachi and Mumbai, respectively.”

Once people can freely meet and trade, and work with each other, the animosities of old can give way to a relationship based on trust and good neighbourliness, the daily said.

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