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New Delhi: India yesterday put on hold the visa-on-arrival (VoA) regime for senior citizens of Pakistan amid tensions on the Line of Control (LoC) over the killing and mutilation of two soldiers. The regime was to start yesterday but was not operationalised because of “technical issues” that are yet to be sorted out, an official said.
The decision to defer the provision came a day after the army made a strong protest over the killing and mutilation of soldiers at a flag meeting with the Pakistan Army.
India has conveyed its serious concern to Pakistan. Army chief Gen Bikram Singh on Monday termed the incident as a “gruesome and an unpardonable act”.
Official sources said agencies had sought some clarifications on the visa-on-arrival and one of the issues raised was whether Pakistani citizens needed a sponsor in India.
The new visa agreement between India and Pakistan was operationalised by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his Pakistan counterpart Rehman Malik in Delhi last month. The agreement allowed for relaxations in visitor and business visas. Sources said no new date had been decided for operationalising the VoA scheme for senior citizens from Pakistan.
Tourism officials, meanwhile, said Japanese tourists were issued the maximum VoAs last year, followed by New Zealanders. A total of 4,604 VoAs were issued to tourists from Japan, followed by those from New Zealand (3,150) and the Philippines (2,444).
Visitors from Indonesia were issued 2,426 VoAs, while the figures for Singapore were 1,974, Finland 914, Vietnam 186, Cambodia 157, Luxembourg 110, Myanmar 109 and Laos 10.
Overall, 16,084 VoAs were issued in 2012 compared to 12,761 in 2011, a jump of 26 percent, officials said.
Last year, the highest number of VoAs were issued at Delhi airport (9,596), followed by Mumbai (3,276), Chennai (2,273) and Kolkata (939).
Officials said in December last year, they issued 2,181 VoAs compared to 1,640 during the same month in 2011 — up 33 percent.
The number of visas issued in December 2012 for nationals of 11 countries were Japan (691), New Zealand (505), Indonesia (310), Singapore (256), the Philippines (239), Finland (104), Vietnam (34), Myanmar (20), Cambodia (13) and Luxembourg (9). No VoAs were issued to citizens of Laos.
The scheme was launched by the government in January 2010 to attract more foreign tourists to India. IANS