Visa For Trust And Friendship: Crossing Borders

Posted on August 28, 2012

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 or so, 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, 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 trust. However, people in both countries have acted in a much more mature way and have moved on. They are ready for a strong bond of friendship and brotherhood. Many Pakistanis cross the border for medical treatments. Traders and businessmen have also increasingly moved beyond the borders. Education has emerged as a reason for crossing over to India. And 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 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 them for years? I have read stories where siblings got separated during the partition. The visa problem is more severe for Kashmir.

Many students apply for education in India, but they are denied visa. Reasons include frequent visits to India, involvement with an NGO in Pakistan etc. A long processing time, is among many other restrictions concerning Visa. Also, for a Pakistan citizen to visit Kashmir, he/she has to apply for the visa for a specific city. Multiple visits are again a problem.

It is not to say that security should not be considered, but we need to know whom 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, 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 of it.

Both 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 people who speak the same language, look just the same, hold same values and beliefs and the same desire to visit each other’s country, are they really different?

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