Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Thinking the unthinkable: visa-free travel between India and Pakistan

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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pushing for visa-free travel with India, and has gone to the extent of saying Islamabad might do it unilaterally  if New Delhi is not prepared to go the distance.

As ideas go, visa-free travel in a globalised world isn’t anything remarkable. In the context of the tortured India-Pakistan relationship this, however, would be nothing short of a political masterstroke.

For people like my parents’ generation, among the millions who crossed the border from Pakistan following the bloody partition of India never to go back, visa-free travel would be akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Likewise for the millions of Muslims who moved in the opposite direction, leaving homes and some family members behind in India, before the curtain dropped.

Wagah

Until the peace process began in 2004, there was barely a trickle of Indians and Pakistanis travelling between the two countries. Just over 8,000 visas were issued to Pakistanis by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad the year before; that number reached a bit more respectable figure of 100,000 by 2007. The numbers are far less for Indians visiting Pakistan.

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