New Delhi, Jan 15: Finally, the Prime Minister has spoken and sent a stern message to Pakistan by putting on hold the liberal visa regime for Pakistani senior citizens.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that "after this barbaric act there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan. Those responsible for this crime (of mutilating soldiers' bodies) will have to be brought to book."
India in the morning put on hold the operationalisation of visa on arrival for senior citizens of Pakistan amid mounting tension on the Line of Control (LoC).
Government sources said the decision was taken after several agencies sought clarifications on facilities to be offered to the Pakistani citizens though the continued tension along the LoC following the killing of two soldiers by Pakistani troops could be the apparent reason.
The visa on arrival facility for Pakistani nationals above 65 years was supposed to start today at the Attari Integrated Check Post (ICP) under the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan signed in Sept 2012 to ease cross-border travel as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBM).
Some clauses of the relaxed visa regime like multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen and allowing them to visit five cities instead of the earlier three was operationalised when Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited New Delhi on Dec 14-16, 2012.
No new date has been fixed for operationalisation of the visa on arrival facility to the Pakistani senior citizens. "We will take a decision at an appropriate time," government sources said. The objections raised by some agencies include whether visiting senior citizens were required to have a sponsor in India before granting them visa on arrival.
However, officially Union Home Secretary RK Singh said some issues relating to visa on arrival needed to be ironed out and that the process will be launched at an appropriate time.
The visa, which was expected to be granted to people in the prescribed age group crossing the Attari-Wagah border on foot, would be given for a maximum of 45 days of stay in one visit and the visa fee would be Rs 100 or $ 2. According to the pact, visa-on-arrival would not be given for stay in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, besides restrictive and prohibitive regions. Amritsar will only be used as transit point.
At present, nearly 100 persons use the Attari-Wagah check post daily to cross the Indo-Pak border on foot with a good number being senior citizens.
(With PTI inputs)