Pak-India, India halts group visa facility

NEW DELHI: India halted on Thursday the proposed group tourist visa facility to Pakistani nationals from Friday apparently because of the growing unease in bilateral ties in which Wednesday’s suicide attack in Srinagar has not helped, Press Trust of India said.

“We are not going to operationalise the group visa facility to be offered to Pakistani nationals from Friday,” a senior Home Ministry official told PTI. The agency cited the killing of two Indian soldiers along the LoC in January as another possible reason for the decision though no official reason has been given for the latest move.

The two countries had agreed to operationalise the group tourist visa facility to be offered to each other’s citizens from March 15.

India has already put on hold visa on arrival facility for senior citizens – part of the new relaxed India-Pakistan visa agreement – hours before its operationalisation on Jan 15 following heightened tension along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Amid strong attack from various political parties over the latest terror strike in Kashmir, the Indian government on Thursday hinted at a Pakistani link but refrained from saying that the militants belonged to it.

Making identical statements in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said some items bearing markings of Pakistan had been recovered from the terrorists who were killed in the encounter after attack on a CRPF camp.

He made the statement after sharp criticism by members from various parties, who said the government had repeatedly failed in preventing terror incidents as well as in dealing with Pakistan from where, they said, these originated.

“The killed terrorists are suspected to be of foreign origin,” Mr Shinde said about the incident in which five CRPF paramilitary troopers were killed while battling the attackers.

Mr Shinde said he did not say that the terrorists were Pakistanis and only mentioned them as foreigners.

“From the bodies of terrorists killed, two diaries, one each containing numbers suspected to be of Pakistanis, tube of Betnovate, a skin ointment, were recovered. Further investigations reveal that this tube was manufactured in Glaxo Smithkline Pak Ltd, at 35 Dockyard, Karachi. The name of the tube mentioned in Urdu and the numbers mentioned in the diaries appear to be of Pakistani origin,” he said.